Overcoming Poverty with Climate Actions

About this theme:

That the impacts of climate change will unduly affect the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world is well established. Climate change is embedded within the same complex and interconnected socio-economic, political, technological, industrial and environmental systems as poverty and inequality. In an unequal world, what does the imperative to mitigate and adapt to climate change mean and for whom? 

How can actions on climate change be orientated to minimise harm to poor people? What is the role of powerful institutions and governments? Is success enhanced if it also yields co-benefits for poverty and inequality?

We build understanding about how actions on climate change interrelate and interact with the multiple dimensions of poverty and inequality within and between nations. We also seek to explore areas and sectors where the synergies are not so readily identifiable. This includes the more difficult decisions on trade-offs between climate change mitigation and adaption and different dimensions of poverty and inequality.

We explore why some visions have traction and others do not. How can actions to address the causes and impacts of climate change incorporate the multiple dimensions of poverty and inequality, and vice versa? In what ways and under which circumstances do climate change, poverty and inequality interact? What are the structural and systemic barriers and enablers that facilitate or undermine effective work and comprehensive understanding of poverty and climate change actions, and how can these be overcome?

We use political economy approaches, including in the energy, forestry and agricultural sectors, to understand how decisions are made and influenced to create knowledge on the political barriers to the success of technical climate actions.

Our research practice and advocacy contribute to understanding how poverty, climate change and inequality interactfor greatest opportunity.

Past highlights

  • Award-winning research into energy from agricultural waste in Southeast Asia brings in farmers’ perspectives to shape current efforts on rice straw and rice husk management and bioenergy development in Southeast Asia and advance agendas on farmer-focussed research, reducing agricultural waste by generating energy, and to ensure that climate actions also have development co-benefits.

  • Women in Environmental Sciences (WiES) brings together women of diverse ethnicities, working in diverse environmental disciplines, so they can address key environmental issues and the way they relate to women

  • Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) was a large, 6-year research project  (led by the University of Cape Town) that ended in 2019 and explored the drivers and dynamics of vulnerability to understand different ways in which the resilience of people and organisations in semi-arid regions could be enhanced.

  • The project, Exploring historical trajectories of exposure, governance and tenure to build resilience to multiple hazards in Small Island Developing States (ran from from 2016 to 2017), showed that an ‘all hazards’ approach to building resilience is more effective if placed within the particular historical and cultural contexts through which land use and human settlement patterns were established.

  • The Foundations for Climate Resilient and Sustainable Urban Settlements (U-Res) project (ran from 2016 - 2017) explored the foundations of how and where new cities emerge, and what are the opportunities for influencing their design while they expand to be resilient to extreme weather in a changing climate. 

Current projects

Climate Resilient Development Pathways for Semi-arid Regions of Africa and South Asia

Funders: International Development Research Centre, Canada and Department for International Development, UK

This 18-month project, funded by the International Development Research Centre, Canada and the Department for International Development, UK, seeks to synthesise knowledge generated by a number of projects funded under three recently completed climate research programmes (the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia, Future Climate for Africa and Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters). 

The project blends the knowledge created by the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions, Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies, Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands, African Monsson Multidisciplinary Analysis 2050 projects in addition to the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters programme to envision the social, environmental and economic dynamics of change for semi-arid regions in Africa and South Asia out to 2050. Running in parallel to the synthesis work is a more focused analysis that explores the current development trajectories for semi-arid regions as articulated through national, sub-national and local development and sectoral plans in Kenya, Namibia and India. 

By exploring how semi-arid regions are likely to evolve under climate change and other dynamics and comparing this to the type of development envisaged through policies, plans and programmes developed by government, the project will identify areas of likely stress or incompatibility. The goal of the project is to generate knowledge concerning areas where policy change may be required or a greater focus on adaptation is necessary to help realign the development trajectories of semi-arid regions to ensure they more climate resilient and can deliver development that is equitable and just.

Some key publications

Valuing Local Perspectives in Iveasive Species Management: Moving Beyong the Ecosystem Service-Disservice Dichotomy

Tebboth, M. G. L.1,2,3*, Few, R.1,2,3, Assen, M.4, Degefu, M. A.

1 School of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR7 4TJ, United Kingdom 
2 Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Norwich, United Kingdom 
3 Global Environmental Justice Group, Norwich, United Kingdom 
4 Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
5 Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Debre Markos University, Debra Markos, Ethiopia

This paper uses the concept of ecosystem disservices to explore and understand how rapid environmental change associated with an invasive plant species is framed and understood by different stakeholders. Through a focus on narratives, the paper explores how socially-differentiated populations understand the causes and consequences of a plant invasion and express preferences for often contrasting management interventions. The research design uses a workshop format to instigate a series of conversations with socially-differentiated groups of people to explore how people perceive and respond to the impact of Prosopis juliflora (a species of mesquite) in the drylands of Ethiopia. The results show that preferences for interventions differs by age, gender, location and livelihood and also by primary and secondary stakeholder. Different sets of values underpin people’s views and these contribute to the variation in the preference for different management interventions. To understand complex issues associated with alien invasive species, we find that the dichotomy between ecosystem services and disservices is artificial and call for a more dynamic and graduated view of ecosystem outputs. More practically, our research shows that P. juliflora management options need wider consideration of socially-differentiated implications and trade-offs and this requires greater efforts to engage with primary stakeholders.