Knowledge Sharing for Climate Change Adaption

Poverty and vulnerability

Poverty and vulnerability

Climate change adaptation, coping, vulnerability, poverty, and resilience constantly appear in the same context. A better understanding of their origins, their meanings and of debates around them provides an introduction to climate change adaptation in general, and illustrates how it has evolved from a technical, science-oriented concept to a multi-disciplinary subject-area closely linked with the broader question of development.

This report [ENGLISH][FRENCH] from Friends of the Earth International features several case-studies (world-wide), explaining the links between climate change, vulnerability and poverty from several local points of view and briefly introduces adaptation strategies adopted so far. IFAD also has introductory material [ENGLISH]; [FRENCH] on poverty and adaptation which is briefer and more general.

Terminology and definitions

The number of resources assessing the scope and definition of adaptation and making the case for adaptation to climate variability and change illustrates that adaptation remains an emerging issue. A number of organisations, at least in the Anglophone context, have also produced material on the definitions of and the links between adaptation, vulnerability and poverty. The Climate Change Knowledge Network ( paper on Concepts, Issues and Assessment Methods on vulnerability and adaptation provides an excellent introduction. As does a special issue of Global Environmental Change, published in the context of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change.

Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change (AIACC), a project carried out through 24 regional assessments worldwide, is a good example of a resilience-oriented approach to adaptation based on five capitals defined as ‘sustainable livelihood assets’.  A Tyndall Centre working paper draws some connections between between ‘biophysical’ and ‘social’ vulnerability. The latter has considerable potential to be reduced through adaptation. For a Francophone report on terminology in poverty and adaptation, a brief paper from CIDA is available.

CICERO’s contribution to the debate, ‘What’s in a Word?’ , explores the policy and research implications of two opposing interpretations of vulnerability and adaptation: vulnerability as ‘end point’ or as ‘starting point’. Drawing on the research from Eastern and Southern African context, a 2008 GECHS Report introduces ‘differential vulnerability’ and gives recommendations for appropriate responses. GECHS [] has a number of other useful resources providing more specific insight into the links between adaptation and poverty reduction (see the resources section for this theme).

Poverty and Vulnerability: Implications for Adaptation Policy and Development Programming

Poverty and vulnerability are core dimensions of adaptation policy and advocacy, as well as adaptation programming in development. CARE International’s Climate Change site [], defines its Approach to Adaptation as ‘addressing underlying causes of poverty and differential vulnerability, requiring disaster risk reduction, livelihood resilience, local capacity strengthening and support for local mobilisation. Similarly, IISD provides guidance for policy makers and development practitioners as to how to reduce vulnerability through local-level adaptation. The range of frameworks for mapping, assessing and reducing vulnerability and measuring adaptive capacity is extensive. We have included a number of the leading frameworks in the resources section for this theme.

The need to effectively mainstream climate change adaptation in development planning and practice and to link adaptation with disaster risk reduction is another issue currently receiving a great deal of focus. The importance and rationale of reducing human vulnerability through A common approach between climate change adaptation and the disaster risk reduction has been explored by the Stockholm Environment Institute ] and UNISDR among others.

Even though there is a vast range of resources in this field, the practical steps for poverty and vulnerability reduction through adaptation often remain vague. One example is the ‘physical and social characteristics of climate change adaptation’ to drought and heavy rainfall, which are examined in Tyndall’s report on the research project ‘ADAPTIVE’ which was carried out in Mozambique.