Climate Change Complicates Efforts to End Poverty

By: The World Bank

  • Climate change hits the poorest people the hardest, those living in vulnerable areas with the fewest resources to help them adapt or recover quickly from shocks. As the effects of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more difficult.
  • We have a window now for ending extreme poverty and putting in place the safety nets that can keep poverty at bay while also cutting emissions. Experts in poverty and climate change at the World Bank Group are working with researchers around the world to develop policy guidance and recommendations that can help.

Governments can help poor families get through climate shocks with more of their assets intact and build resilience to longer-term climate changes while also working to reduce the drivers of climate change.

Experts in poverty and climate change at the World Bank Group are working with researchers around the world this year to help develop policy guidance and recommendations that can help.To end poverty requires action on both poverty and climate change – quickly.

1) Climate change is an obstacle to ending extreme poverty.

The poor – both those living in poverty and those just barely above the poverty line – are already the most at risk from climate change. They have the fewest resources to adapt or recovery quickly from shocks, and they often live on the most vulnerable land because it tends to be the most affordable, such as homes along creeks that flood or on hillsides prone to landslides, or farmland with limited water access.

2) Climate policies benefit the poor over the long-term and can benefit the poor in the short-term when accompanied by appropriate social policies.

Climate policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can increase the cost of energy, but they can also generate or free up public finances to help the poor in more targeted ways.

Carbon pricing, for example, puts a price on carbon to help lower emissions and can create a revenue stream from polluters that can be used to help the poor offset any rise in fuel or energy prices. When British Columbia created its carbon tax, it used the revenue to lower income and business taxes and to create a low-income climate action tax credit that provides quarterly support to the poor to help with energy costs.

3) Creating strong, flexible social safety nets can catch the poor before they fall into poverty.

One clear message from the research across climate change and poverty is that reducing the impact of climate change on poverty requires strengthening the social protection system to make programs scalable and targeted to those in need.

4) We have a window of opportunity to reduce poverty now.

We are seeing the impacts of climate change already in melting glaciers and extreme weather. Scientists warn that the world is locked into an increase of about 1.5°C above pre-industrial times even with action to reduce the drivers of climate change – and as much as 4°C by the end of the century without action, with dangerous consequences.



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