Climate change: the bend in the road towards ending extreme poverty

9 Oct 2018

We cannot afford to miss a bend in road on our journey towards ending extreme poverty. Since the turn of the millennium we have made enormous steps towards alleviating extreme poverty but we must not neglect the enormous threat climate change poses to this progress.

The World Bank estimates that 100 million people will be pushed back into extreme poverty without urgent action to tackle the impacts of climate change.  If the international development community fails to adequately incorporate climate risk into their development strategies we risk undoing years of progress, undermining our commitment to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and leave the poorest and most vulnerable people behind.

So what is the link between climate change and poverty? Scientific evidence increasingly points towards the direct correlation between climate change and natural disasters and the poorest and most vulnerable are disproportionately by climate shocks. Why? The poorest are most susceptible due to a number of factors, for example, two thirds of the world’s extreme poor work in agriculture, predominantly smallholder agriculture, one of the sectors most likely to be affected by natural disasters and poor people are often forced to settle in areas vulnerable to natural disasters as they have no choice.     

Climate Risk Insurance (CRI) may at first sound like a complex concept to come to terms with, but we have no choice but to understand its importance and advocate for its effective utilisation as part of a wider climate management strategy. In simple terms, CRI is about providing a safety net from climate shocks for the world’s poorest and most marginalised people. CRI has had real impacts for real impacts, during a drought this could mean a smallholder farmer can receive a pay-out that will enable them to continue feeding their families and invest in new livestock – it could mean saving lives and livelihoods.  However, two billion people worldwide currently have no access to the financial services that could provide a safety net during a disaster and this has to change.


Photo: Riccardo Gangale/ILRI

In the last few months, Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC) has been conducting an inquiry into the role of UK aid in combatting climate change. RESULTS UK has submitted evidence to the IDC outlining why we believe the UK needs to be, and can be, a global leader on this issue.

One channel through which the UK can do this is through its membership of the innovative and crucial platform, the InsuResilience Global Partnership (IGP). Building on the G7 InsuResilience Initiative, the IGP was created in 2017. It is a platform consisting of governments, NGOs and other international agencies, with the overriding aim of strengthening resilience in developing countries and protecting lives and livelihoods against the impact of disasters. As a member of the IGP, the Department for International Development (DFID) has rightly been heralded for its leadership. We now believe DFID can play a more prominent role in ensuring that CRI initiatives reach the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

As an influential stakeholder in the IGP, DFID has the potential to drive an approach to managing climate risks that places the necessary emphasis on the most vulnerable. At RESULTS UK we believe this means an approach that prioritises the poorest and most marginalised, establishing strong frameworks for measuring the impact on CRI programs and the participation of NGOs in developing countries and affected communities. This will enable us to reach those being left behind and giving a voice to those with first-hand knowledge the impact of climate shocks on these groups.  

We are making progress towards ending extreme poverty but we cannot allow ourselves to believe that poverty reduction is a one way transition, people can, and do, fall back into poverty and climate change risks undermining years of progress. In the midst of one the most perilous phenomena of our time it is more important than ever that we ensure the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world are adequately accounted for.

Neil Raw

Policy Advocacy Coordinator

Neil Raw works as our Policy Advocacy Coordinator. Before working for RESULTS UK, Neil studied International Development, before completing a Master’s degree in Applied Human Rights. He previously worked for International Service. Neil is passionate about human rights and is a strong believer in...

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