Those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods are among the most vulnerable to climate change – they also happen to be among the world’s poorest. This column argues that policymakers have a duty to help them adapt. It adds that the near-term poverty effects of climate-mitigation policies could even be more significant than climate change itself.
A key avenue through which climate change affects the poor is via the agriculture sector, since poverty tends to be concentrated in rural areas, the poor spend a large share of their income on food, and their income from farm production and wages is tied to climate patterns.
Given the length of time required for households to recover from adverse climate shocks, the prospect of increasingly frequent and intense extreme events is of great concern. Policymakers should consider undertaking measures to facilitate adaptation by the poor to such events, including improvement of credit and insurance markets and better governance of natural resources. Given our hypothesis that the near-term poverty impacts of climate mitigation policies could be more significant than the poverty impacts of climate change itself, policymakers have a duty to design such mitigation projects to maximise their poverty-reducing potential.