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THE POVERTY-ENVIRONMENT-CLIMATE NEXUS


- NEW CHALLENGES FOR POVERTY REDUCTION -
by Andreas Rechkemmer1

Background Paper for the Conference “The Environments of the Poor”


24-26 November 2010, New Delhi, India

- Final Version -

1. Abstract

0. Poverty eradication has always been the primordial focus of any development and
cooperation strategy since the 1940s. Stressing the linkages and feedbacks between
poverty and environmental change, however, has become a real issue in international
and regional consultations and policy formulation only since the Rio Earth Summit of
1992. Preparing for its 20th anniversary in May 2012 (Rio +20), one has to revisit
conceptual frameworks and policy systems surrounding the poverty-environment nexus
since global changes, and in particular global climate change, have again altered the
“landscape” quite dramatically. Climate change and its impacts pose an unprecedented
challenge for any development approach. Only through intelligible and synergistic
models and strategies that aim to tackle the poverty-environment-climate nexus as a
coherent and integral system, this challenge is likely to be met. This paper explores the
poverty-environment-climate nexus from both a factual and conceptual perspective,
looks at climate impacts on poverty, and highlights some of the most prominent
approaches, i.e. adaptive capacity building and inclusive green growth strategies.

2. The Poverty-Environment Nexus: Facts, Concepts, and Scenarios

2.1. A well-known problem?

1. According to common insight, the poor must “make rational decisions based on limited
information and within a given institutional or policy framework, about their labor choices,
the risks they are willing to bear, and factors that affect their health. Thus, under varying
circumstances, it may be optimal for poor people to mine natural resources, as is the
case with soil degradation in several countries.” (Shyamsundar, 2002) For instance,
actions, such as mining, that result in soil degradation may bring about positive financial
benefits in the short term but can have profound effects in the long term, such as an
increase in floods due to soil erosion negatively effects livelihoods and food security, and

1 Global Risk Forum Davos, University of Cologne and Beijing Normal University. Former Executive
Director, International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP).
can lead to migration and social conflict. The impoverished depend on natural resources
when “monetary income or agricultural produce is unavailable” (Shyamsundar, 2002) as
they may be the only assets that they have access to.

2. Hence a stronger focus has been laid in recent years on monitoring the usage of such
resources and on poverty assessment. “Poverty monitoring is a process of tracking the
changes in poverty over time using various indicators of poverty.” (UNDP 2010c)
“Poverty assessment is an instrument designed to assess the extent and causes of
poverty in a given country and to propose a strategy to improve the situation. It reviews
levels and changes over time and across regions in poverty indicators, assesses the
impact of growth and public actions on poverty and inequality, and reviews the adequacy
of a country's poverty monitoring and evaluation arrangements.” (UNDP 2010c) Unless
educated to follow sustainable practices, the poor may unintentionally exploit their
surroundings to quite a dramatic degree and then have to face the, sometimes
unexpected, consequences that come along with it.

3. Over recent decades, an almost abundant corpus of relevant literature, academic and
non-academic, has been accumulated. Since eradicating extreme hunger and poverty is
Millennium Development Goal No. 1, it makes good sense to refer to UNDP’s knowledge
network as a valuable pool of resources. This also extends to related work carried out by
most of the multilateral development banks, e.g. The World Bank Group and the Asian
Development Bank. In addition, Priya Shyamsundar’s Poverty-Environment Indicators
framework may also serve as a decent reference point as it focuses on environmental
health and the intersection between poverty and the environment (natural resources in
particular). It was circulated by The World Bank to “encourage thought and discussion”
(Shyamsundar, 2002). Furthermore, of relevance are, among others, the work and
publications of the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (www.unpei.org). All of
these publications and resources, and many more, have studied poverty intensively,
including its interface with environmental issues. And yet, it would appear that the nexus
between poverty, environmental changes and resource depletion, and climate change in
particular, deserves ample attention and is yet under-researched.

2.2. The Drivers and Impact Channels of Rural and Urban Poverty

2.2.1. The Case of Rural Poverty

4. Rural poverty is often associated with the phenomena of land degradation, drought
and desertification (e.g. caused or aggravated by climatic variability and changes,
overgrazing or unsustainable agricultural activities). If the rural poor stay on their land,
the degradation pattern means that the productivity will be too low to support the rural
inhabitants (Barbier, 2000). Oftentimes they are forced to migrate to other areas where
the cycle of degradation will continue unless soil conservation education and appropriate
incentives effectively appear (Barbier, 2000). On the other hand, the poor may have
access to resources that are abundant in their environments but globally scarce (i.e.
forest cover and biodiversity) (Reardon, 1995). Unfortunately, they often lack the
resources to make the best use of what they have (such as soil nutrients, labor, health,
etc.). These circumstances, for instance, can lead the rural poor to burn forests to make
farmland and provide the nutrients that the soil needs (Reardon, 1995). Hence they lose
something that is actually of even greater value (such as forests as carbon sinks).
2.2.2. The Case of Urban Poverty

5. Urban Poverty is very often the result of migration from rural areas in order to find jobs
and/or basic income in cities. Such jobs, however, are oftentimes ones in factories or
plants that perpetuate dirty industry rather than mitigating it. “Particulate pollution from
cement mills may only be dangerous in one urban region, acid rain from sulphur
emissions may damage forests hundreds of miles from the source, and eutrophication
from fertilizer runoff may affect ocean fisheries a thousand miles downstream from the
farms that are the source of the problem”. (Dasgupta et al., 2003). There is a significant
difference between the poor in land-rich and the ones in land-scarce societies (Naraina
et al., 2008). In land-rich societies, the poor are more likely to be poor due to a lack of a
strong or cost-effective work force or injury (which can be a temporary condition). In
land-scarce societies, the poor are more likely to be poor due to their lack of access to
land or their lack of gainful employment (which is likely to be a permanent condition).
Moreover, living in close proximity to others in informal housing settlements can be
detrimental to human health.

2.2.3. Mutual Intersection: a Vicious Cycle?

6. “Poverty and third world debt has been shown to result in resource stripping just to
survive or pay off debts. For example, Nepal and Bangladesh have suffered from various
environmental problems such as increasingly devastating floods, often believed to be
resulting from large-scale deforestation. Forests around the world face increased
pressures from timber companies, agricultural businesses, and local populations that
use forest resources. Some … also raise concerns about increasing populations placing
excessive burdens on the world’s resources as [a] … major source of environmental
problems.” (www.globalissues.org) Environmental degradation is often intensified by
population growth and economic marginalization, which then puts more stress on the
impoverished (Scherr, 2000). Agriculture accounts for the majority of the land use in
developing countries, which means that agricultural practices can be considered the
greatest indicator of environmental quality (i.e. soil quality, biodiversity, water reserves)
(Scherr, 2000). Agriculture is the main source of income for the rural poor. “Poverty is
recognized as a significant constraint on agricultural growth because of poor people’s
need to concentrate resources on lower-value food crops to ensure subsistence security
and their difficulties in mobilizing production and investment resources.” (Scherr, 2000)

7. The described movements of people from rural areas to cities in an effort to find work
tend to diversify income-generating activities to raise or maintain the income. (Foeken,
2008) The wages of the poor may not be high enough, or the poor may not have reliable
income if they have to rely on day-to-day work. The urban poor may be working in
factories that let out high carbon emissions, yet they still may not earn enough to sustain
their livelihoods. The may also turn to urban farming practices to avoid nutritional deficits
and sell their surplus food. (Foeken, 2008) In order for livelihoods to be sustainable, they
must be resilient to stresses and shocks (for agriculture this could be droughts and
floods) without weakening the foundation of resources. (Scherr, 2000) If the livelihoods
of the poor are not sustainable, coping with environmental effects of resource overuse
can further impoverish these individuals. For instance, the poor may need to deal with
reducing consumption, migration costs, or household depletion as a result of living in a
non-sustainable manner.
Stopping the Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Environmental Degradation:

i. We need a strategy which will improve the environment while reducing


poverty.
ii. The poor need to preserve the resource base so that there is always a
cushion in case of disaster (this disaster can be natural or
anthropogenic).
iii. The poor should be enabled to work on diversifying the types of produce
(not relying solely on staple, easy-to-produce foods).
iv. Case studies have found that “local people develop technical
and institutional innovations in natural resource management
(NRM) to reduce risks and adapt to or reverse degradation,
even as pressures increase” (Tiffen et al., 1994). Such
experience needs to be assessed and communicated.

2.3. Urbanization and the Coastal Zones: An Asian problematique

8. Although the coastal zones are quite narrow, the population density in these areas is
approximately three times the global average. Not only is the population density higher,
but it is also growing at a rapid rate, which “will impose disproportionate pressures on
the Earth System” (www.ihdp.org). This is true for all city sizes, rural to mega-cities.
Changes in upland areas are characterized by “changes in the timing, flux and dispersal
of water, sediments, nutrients and contaminants to the coastal zone” (www.ihdp.org).
The following is a list of anthropogenic activities that cause major environmental
changes in the coastal zone (after www.ihdp.org):
i. Shoreline engineering structures

ii. Over-harvesting of marine resources

iii. An increase in water-borne and


atmospheric pollutants resulting from
industry and urbanization

iv. Loss of ecosystems like coastal


wetlands

v. Changes in the amount and types of


coastal discharge

vi. Introduction of new species to


coastal zones (i.e. zebra mussels).

9. Subsequently, seaward hazards in low elevation coastal zones occur more frequently,
as typically descirbed in the below list (Montgomery, 2010):

i. Sea-level rise: “Increased salinity of rivers, bays, groundwater; fresh


water scarcity”
ii. Storm surges: “More intense and frequent tropical storms”
iii. Coastal and river flooding
iv. Heavy precipitation and land slides
v. Health threats: Women, children, and the elderly are at the highest
risk for health related problems stemming from these hazards.

3. Aggravation of Poverty Through Climate Change

3.1. A basic problem

10. Why do we need to focus on the climate change-poverty nexus? Because of obvious
transition channels through which the environment of the poor is further degraded due to
climate change. Migration from rural areas to urban areas can be seen, as shown above,
as a coping mechanism in the face climate change, which in effect means more slum
poverty. Locations where the poor are most affected are: creeks, drylands, and river
lines. Income attenuation is mainly a rural issue because people that directly depend on
the land for their livelihood are most affected by extreme weather events and irregular
weather patterns. Health related issues, on the other hand, often have to do with
congestion and pollution. Even if those are not directly aggravated by climate change it
is obvious that climate change means more migration to urban areas and more slums.
Moreover, vector borne and zoonotic deseases are on the forefront due to climate
change, especially in Asia. (www.gechh.unu.edu) Climate change is also likely to
produce more landslides and floods, which affect both rural and slum poor.

11. Climate change no doubt affects society, particularly in developing countries. “The
impacts of climate change will reverse decade’s worth of human developmental gains
and threaten achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While many
developing countries remain the most vulnerable to these future threats, they have
limited capacity to address the climate crisis… Reducing poverty and fighting climate
change go hand-in-hand. Unless people have basic access to water, sanitation, food
and energy, to institutions that work, and a say in the decisions that affect their lives,
then they will not be able to cope with a changing climate.” (UNDP 2010b)

3.2. The Phenomenology

3.2.1. Water stress, droughts, floods, sea level rise, and the poverty debate

12. Water stress: Even in the face of water scarcity, there is a rapidly growing global
demand and there is an issue of water contamination due to agricultural contamination.
Climate change worsens these problems. Key factors are changing rainfall patterns, and
stress on ground and surface water resources. Also, salt infiltration caused by sea-level
rise is a problem. Only recently, the water rights issue has been dealt with by the UN in a
systematic manner. Water rights should be for “productive and consumptive use”.
(Scherr, 2000) In general, the poor pay more for water, which is an absurd situation that
ought to be tackled. (www.unescap.org)

How water scarcity is exemplified in the poor: (after Barker et. al., 2000)
o Women having to carry water from several km away to
meet daily household needs
o Farmers become destitute because of lack of irrigation
o There is a loss of wetlands due to upstream water
depletion
o Water-borne illnesses increase due to water scarcity
• Water scarcity leads to a decline in water
quality
• The poor are forced to drink water that is
considered unfit for human consumption

13. Droughts: Fish yield is lower during droughts in the coastal zones, fiscally affecting
poor fishers. (Paw and Eng, 1991) In agricultural areas, drought can be dealt with by
employing better water systems, i.e. irrigation systems, which would help in alleviating
poverty. (Enfors and Gordon, 2008) However, there is a problem because there is an
increase in production to meet growing demands, even in times of drought. Also, water
and irrigation supply oftentimes appears to be a governance challenge. There is also a
related poverty “trap” because poor people are forced to live in marginalized areas
without the resources to better their situation.

14. Floods and sea-level rise: The impoverished “typically occupy the most marginal
land, i.e. coastal lowlands, riverbanks and urban fringes - areas that are not only
vulnerable to such climate risks but also to pollution and disease”. (Sales, 2009) Floods
can also mean the loss of life and assets, as the poor may lack the resources to properly
prepare the homestead against flooding. Physical impacts include coastal erosion,
flooding of lowlands as well as due to storm surges, and high tides, salt imposition,
biodiversity loss. (Paw and Eng, 1991) Sea-level rise could mean diminished fish
populations and infertile soils, which of course have detrimental effects for the rural poor
depending on these resources for their livelihoods.

3.2.2. Natural hazards and extreme events

15. “People who live on arid or semi-arid lands, in low-lying coastal areas, in water
limited or flood prone areas, or on small islands are particularly vulnerable to climatic
variability and change” (Mirza, 2003) “Extreme events have increased in temperate Asia
(floods, droughts, forest fires, and tropical cyclones (high confidence); thermal and water
stress, flood and drought, sea-level rise, and tropical cyclones would diminish food
security in countries of arid, tropical, and temperate Asia; agriculture would expand and
increase in productivity in northern areas (medium confidence). Sea-level rise and
increase in intensity of tropical cyclones would displace tens of millions of people in low-
lying coastal areas of temperate and tropical Asia; increased intensity of rainfall would
increase flood risks in temperate and tropical Asia (high confidence). Climate change
increases energy demand, decreases tourism, and influences transportation in some
regions of Asia (medium confidence).” (Mirza, 2003) UNDP’s five step “adaptation policy
framework in the context of present climatic variability and extremes and future climate
change” foresees the following elements: (UNDP, 2010a)

• Scope the Project


• Assess the Current Vulnerability
• Characterize Future Conditions
• Prioritize Policies and Measures
• Prepare for Adaptation
3.3. Risks, Threats, and Challenges: Impacts on countries and people

16. The most recent Maplecroft Climate Change Vulnerability Index states: “Ten of the
16 most vulnerable countries are in Asia. The [index] has crunched data from more than
40 studies, and looked at a range of risk factors including a nation's exposure to climate-
related disasters; its population density, poverty and dependence on agriculture; and its
government's and infrastructure's ability to adapt to climate change. Bangladesh comes
top of the "extremely vulnerable" category because of its large population, extreme rural
poverty and high risk of flooding. India is second because of its billion-plus inhabitants.
Other Asian nations at risk include Nepal, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Burma,
Cambodia and Pakistan, which is still recovering from floods that engulfed a tenth of the
country.” (New Scientist 2010) In fact nearly all of South Asia is either at high risk or
extreme risk: #1 is Bangladesh, #2 is India, #4 is Nepal, #10 is Myanmar with them all
being at “extreme” risk. “The relationships between climate change and the vulnerability
of resources-poor croppers and livestock keepers and their resilience to current and
future climate variability need to be better understood… Given the heterogeneity in
households’ access to resources, poverty levels and ability to cope, vulnerability
assessments need to be done … to help improve the adaptive capacity and coping
strategies of highly vulnerable households.” (op. cit.)

3.3.1. The Macro-Impacts of Climate Change

3.3.1.1. Food Security

17. Those without access to drinking water are also the “food insecure” (Hanjra and
Qureshi, 2010). South Asia is one of the places that will be hardest hit because they are
already prone to malnutrition due to existing water scarcity and food security issues.
Climate change will affect four dimensions of food security (Wang, 2010):

i. Food availability
ii. Food accessibility
iii. Food utilization
iv. Food systems stability

Possible positive effects of climate change include higher precipitation, temperature


increase, higher evapotranspiration demands, potential crop growth that will increase
due to elevated CO2 levels. Possible negative effects include more frequent extreme
events and salt water intrusion due to sea-level rise (Droogers, 2004).

3.3.1.2. Economic Losses

18. Economic losses will occur where climate change and socio-economic systems
interact. Despite the work of the Stern Review and subsequent regional sstudies, reliable
and comprehensive quantification of the economic effects of these events are still in a
preliminary stage. Most scenarios assume that we know the exact degree of future
climate change, which is problematic. Assumptions are also made about the functioning
of the economy on which the impacts will be descended upon. “Economic Amplification
Ratio is the ratio of the overall production loss due to an event to its direct costs. We
showed that for large-scale events, this ratio could be significantly larger than one. As a
consequence, even in the present climate, this ratio should be used by policymakers to
assess the benefits of mitigation or prevention measures.” (Hallegatte et. al., 2007) For
instance, cyclones and the flooding associated are rated by reinsurance companies as
the most costly natural disasters today. There is a general consensus that cyclones will
increase in intensity. Those disasters will affect the socio-economic conditions of the
poor and marginal differentially.

3.3.2. The Micro-Impacts of Climate Change

3.3.2.1. Implications for Livelihoods and Income

19. Many countries who have contributed very little to climate change are bearing the
brunt of its adverse effects. Further asymmetry will occur between those responsible
(typically wealthy) and those who are vulnerable (typically poor). For instance, premature
deaths in poor countries can go largely unnoticed as mortality data from weather-events
are largely biased. Moreover, for example wealthy coastal nations can afford to protect
large lowland populations (i.e. the Netherlands with high economic, technical, and
institutional capacity). A large reason why poor countries are so vulnerable is because of
their already warm climate, but it is also due to low socio-economic capacity and also to
their higher biophysical sensitivity. (Füssel, 2010)

20. Livelihood often depends on natural resources that are affected by climate change.
This is for instance the case with poor fishing communities (after Badjeck et al., 2010):
i. Impacts of coral bleaching on fish communities include changes in their
diversity, size and composition.
ii. Change in surface temperatures affect species distribution. For example
fishers may have to fish deeper or in different places, meaning higher
fishing costs due to travel and ice costs (for transporting fish).
iii. Extreme weather can destroy landing sites, boats, and gear.
iv. Health effects regarding humans include malaria and dengue fever, which
are shown to be associated with the El Niño cycle.
v. Health effects to marine life include “red tides of toxic algal can be
triggered by marine phytoplankton blooms, often associated with
increased in SSTs. These toxic algal cause diarrheal and paralytic
diseases linked to shellfish poisoning.” (Badjeck et al., 2010)

21. Poor dryland farmers pose another case worthwhile to study (after Thomas, 2008):
vi. Dryland farmers will face increased temperatures and disruptions to
hydrological cycles, which will mean less and more erratic rainfall,
exacerbating the existing problems with water scarcity and/or allocation.
vii. Coping mechanisms include “cropping systems and patterns, switching
from cereal-based systems to cereal–legumes and diversifying production
systems into higher value and greater water use efficient options”.
viii. There is a need for irrigation reform since water, rather than land, limits
productivity.
ix. The people in these areas need to find alternate water sources, i.e.
treated sewage water.
x. Conservation agriculture can be utilized so that crop residues can be
used to reduce soil erosion from wind and increase soil water storage.
xi. Policy can be used to help the rural poor: “Insurance contracts written in
relation to local rainfall. This insurance works against some set amount of
rainfall at a specific and perhaps critical time of the cropping season. If
rainfall is below a set value then all who have purchased insurance
receive payment. If there is no rainfall shortage nobody receives
payment. Another option is better early warning drought forecasts to
avoid committing resources before rainfall outcomes are known. Farmers,
governments and relief agencies can profitably utilize these systems.”
(Thomas, 2008)

22. Poor foresters are another vulnerable group to be mentioned. A high percentage of
the 640 million people in the Asia-Pacific region living on $1 a day live in and around
forested areas (FAO, 2010). Yet forests carry the potential to significantly contribute to
climate change mitigation strategies in this region. This can be achieved by employing
community-based systems of sustainable forest management, which would pose
opportunities for the poor. Moreover, mangrove ecosystems can contribute to resilience
of communities in coastal zones against rising sea-levels. (FAO, 2010) “Appropriately
designed policy can provide means to sustain and strengthen community livelihoods and
at the same time avoid deforestation, restore forest cover and density, provide carbon
mitigation and create rural assets. This mechanism potentially has additional social,
economic and ecological benefits. The international carbon market is a promising
channel for improving livelihood opportunities for the rural poor in the forest areas.”
(Singh, 2008)

23. Poor populations in wetlands and flood affected areas are also highly vulnerable.
Population growth and economic development are the two leading causes of wetland
degradation in the PR China and this also contributes to the minimization of wetlands
from urban and suburban expansion. Anthropogenic activities diminish the wetlands and
along with it the economy that is central to the local people’s livelihood (most of the
people living in these areas in China are poor with no other livelihood). Original wetland
is being replaced by agricultural land or any other anthropogenic landscape. (Xie et al.,
2009) In addition, it is estimated that by 2080 70% of the world’s wetlands could be gone
as a result of climate change, which would also contribute to migration. (Barnett, 2003)

3.3.2.2. Health Impacts on the Poor

24. In India the urban rich’s disease profile resembles that of one from a developed
country, whereas the urban poor suffer from poverty-induced diseases. This is
exacerbated by industrialization, environmental changes such as climate change and
social instability. The poor are subject to disproportionately high exposure to pathogens.
This is due to overcrowding, poor housing, problems with water supply, and sanitation
problems. Poor housing design can help to spread diseases such as flu or tuberculosis
due to improper ventilation systems and unfinished floors, walls, or roofs. Lack of clean
water supply, sewage and sanitation facilities, and waste control contribute to water-
borne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera. Where water for sanitation is
scarce, there is an abundance of eye and ear infections and skin diseases like scabies.
(Asthana, 1995) Respiratory particulate matter concentrations in Indian kitchens are 30x
the WHO standard due to the burning of biomass (wood, coal, dung, crop residue) and
coal, while concentrations at the workplace can be 12x the standard. (www.unep.org)
Mitigating those habits would also help mitigate climate change.

25. Water-borne diseases are a problem mainly of the poor. At any instant, half of the
world’ hospital beds are occupied by someone with a water-borne illness. “Two of the
water-related diseases, diarrhea and malaria, ranked 3rd and 4th place in the cause of
death among children under 5 years old, accounting for 17 per cent and 8 per cent
respectively of all deaths.” (www.un.org) Childhood diarrhea is the leading cause of
premature mortality globally. Cholera, typhoid, and other related diseases are caused by
contaminated water. Urbanization itself is not usually at the heart of health concerns of
the poor, sanitation and water quality are. Approx. “40% of the world’s population lacks
access to sanitation facilities”. (Rosenquist, 2005) Key variables of environmental health
in the developing world, according to the UN and WHO, are:
1.Contaminated and inadequate quantities of water
2.Inadequate provisions for sanitary management and solid/liquid
waste disposal
3.Inadequate disease controlling vectors
4.Poor quality/overcrowded housing
5.Inadequate policy infrastructure/implementation
It is quite evident that climate change impacts onto such circumstances in that its
adverse effects increase the suceptibility of poor and vulnerable populations. Rainfalls
will be heavier, triggering sewage overflows, contaminating drinking water and
endangering beachgoers. Higher lake and ocean temperatures will cause bacteria,
parasites and algal blooms to flourish. Warmer weather and heavier rains also will mean
more mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever. Fresh
produce and shellfish are more likely to become contaminated. (Lydersen, 2008) Similar
effects can be expected with regard of vector borne diseases (Githeko et al., 2000).

4. Coping with vulnerability: Improving human security

26. “Many people are vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters because of where they
live or because they lack the necessary capabilities and community support to survive
and thrive when disaster strikes. IISD defines a "livelihood" as the capabilities, assets
(stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living. A
livelihood is sustainable if it can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain
and enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities
for the next generation.” (www.iisd.org/economics/poverty)

4.1. Climate-Induced Migration and Implications for Slum, Coastal, and Dryland
Poverty

27. Human migration will be the single greatest impact of climate change and this is
mainly due to soil erosion, coastal flooding, and agricultural disruption (Brown, 2008):
i. It is estimated that there will be 200 million forced immigrants by 2050
due to climate change, which is the widest repeated prediction.

ii. There are two distinct factors caused by meteorological impacts


(Brown, 2008):

1.The first factor is classified as climate processes, which means


sea-level rise, soil intrusion on agricultural land, desertification,
and water scarcity.
2.The second factor is classified as climate events, which means
flooding, storms, glacial lake outburst floods.

3.Other important impacts are government policy, population


growth, and resilience on the community level.

28. Migration to slums intensifies existing environmental and economic problems in


these areas (Warner, 2010). An example of this would be megacities that attract those
looking to find work and earn enough to send money back to their families. Climate
change will result in flooding, intense storms, droughts, stress on urban infrastructure,
and intensification and increased frequency of hazardous events. Large and sudden
migration can lead to accelerated urbanization, particularly in slums that cannot keep up
with the educational, health, and public safety needs of such an influx of people (Adamo,
2010). In recent years there has been much rural-urban migration to coastal zones,
which has resulted in the loss of many lives on the east coast of India. This is illustrated
by the fact that, although coastal zones make up 2% of the land, they house 14% of the
world’s population, and 23% of the total urban population (18% in the low-level coastal
zone) (Adamo, 2010). This can result in secondary migration in the future (for low-lying
coastal zones). Drylands make up 48% of total land and house 38% of the world’s
population. Urban populations in dry lands are expected to increase by 10% by 2025
(Adamo, 2010). Drought in these regions is likely to increase with climate change. Since
the livelihoods of the poor in dry land regions depend on subsistence agriculture and the
natural resource base, building successful adaptation methods to climate change will
increase resilience and decrease vulnerability (Stringer et. al., 2009). The major issue is
not the temperature increase in Central and West Asia, but the disrupted water cycle in a
place with excessive water withdrawal (90% for agriculture and low rates of renewable
water resources). (Thomas, 2008)

4.2. Adaptive governance systems

29. “The poverty-ecosystem nexus is governed by a complex system of institutions,


organizations and policies at international scales right down to the local community. IISD
aims to find ways that policies, organizations and institutions can work together to
achieve linked poverty alleviation and environmental management goals… Multilateral
environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention
to Combat Desertification and the Framework Convention on Climate Change contain
mechanisms to protect the environment that can also be harnessed to reduce poverty.
We are researching ways that these mechanisms can be linked to poverty alleviation
efforts through local-level natural resources management.”
(www.iisd.org/economics/poverty)

30. Adaptations “occur in the context of demographic, cultural and economic change as
well as transformations in information technologies, global governance, social
conventions and the globalizing flows of capital” (Adger, 2005). Governance systems
must be adaptive if they are to deal with:
i. “Problems of Complexity: intricate nature of ecosystem dynamics,
differing spatial reach and temporal dimensions, impact of thresholds
and feedback loops, and human dimensions.
ii. Problems of Uncertainty and Change: science is incomplete, some of
our understandings may be wrong, some ecological and social
changes are not foreseen, existing knowledge is not fully integrated.
iii. Problems of Fragmentation: the governance landscape is not
sufficiently linked or co-ordinated, centralisation and decentralisation
of governance is often not appropriately balanced, important users
and constituents are outside the process” (www.ias.unu.edu)

31. “The regional aspect of many environmental issues is critical to promoting effective
solutions. Transboundary resources - such as shared river basins, migratory species of
fauna, and habitats that span two or more nations - require regional management, since
states cannot effectively address the issues alone, and global solutions are beyond their
scope. The regional level thus represents a critical middle ground between the
international and national levels as they concern sustainable development-related
international governance with the potential to encourage co-ordination and co-operation
among the multiple levels of governance.” (www.ias.unu.edu) At the national level, there
may be policies requiring companies to operate in a way that “ensure[s] reliability of
supply and the sustainable use of […] resources” (Adger, 2005). This is true, for
example, with energy supply security in the PR China and India (Kok and de Coninck,
2007). There is a trade-off because they use coal to meet the ever-increasing energy
demand. These policies, however, can be used for climate change mitigation: “Policy
package for more efficient and cleaner fossil fuel use and incentives for development of
new low-CO2 coal technologies”. (op. cit.)

32. Studies at the global level have been carried out since the entry into force of the
UNFCCC and have proven to be useful (King, 1995):
i. For estimating the aggregate impact of measures on atmospheric
concentrations of GHGs;

ii. For estimating the overall amount of finance that needs to be mobilized in
a given period to pay for these measures;

iii. For revising research strategies;

iv. For determining the relative priority of mitigation and adaptation;

v. For proposing international burden sharing.


The IPCC also draws on such studies. These help IPCC take a view about the adequacy
of commitments in the UNFCCC. Studies at the country level, however, usually identify
the mitigation and adaptation measures available to governments, along with their
priority, likely effects, and costs. The studies help governments select measures and
negotiate financial assistance. In most cases, one takes as given in country studies
certain matters, which global studies treat as issues to be addressed. Sometimes it is
too difficult to integrate studies macroeconomically, but one can study sector investment
plans and sector policy responses. The paradigmatic case is the energy sector. The
effectiveness of those measures in terms of mitigation can be assessed through well-
conceived national climate studies, which are based on an understanding of these
issues, and which will help countries concerned to make choices between alternative
courses of national action. (King, 1995)

33. Coping mechanisms at local levels also depend on the effectiveness of global
frameworks such as the existing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs),
especially UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, or instruments such as the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM). Moreover, bilateral and regional climate change
programs can play an important role. Finally, the requirements of good governance are
an indispensable cornerstone of any adaptive regime geared towards tackling the
climate-poverty nexus in a meaningful way: (www.unescap.org)
i. Participation
ii. Rules of Law
iii. Transparency
iv. Responsiveness
v. Consensus Oriented
vi. Equity and Inclusiveness
vii. Effectiveness and Efficiency
viii. Accountability

34. One of the key questions when dealing with pro-poor adaptation issues is: How can
integrated risk management and resilience interventions be made pro-poor, and what
are the poverty reduction and inclusive growth implications? IISD in Canada has
showcased remarkable work in this field: “Protection, conservation, and sustainable use
of natural resources and ecosystem services; reduction of air and water pollution;
disaster prevention and reduction of vulnerability to natural hazards. IISD is identifying
policies that promote local resilience and adaptive management so that vulnerability is
reduced. IISD developed a framework that connects people's well-being to ecosystem
services.” (www.iisd.org/economics/poverty)
35. Certainly, adaptation efforts, strategies and policies must be mainstreamed into all
sustainable development work, and truly synergize climate change risk and resilience
management with pro-poor development and growth. In applying such broad-based
adaptation strategies, formal and local knowledge and policy must be balanced to build
up adaptive capacity. The S. Rajaratnam School, 2009, has provided the following
framework:
i. Poverty exacerbates climate-induced insecurities and high levels of
urbanization are the reasons for this.
ii. It is too late to rely solely on mitigation strategies, must also have
adaptation strategies.
iii. Adaptation means that vulnerability is decreased and resilience is
increased:
1.“Support the lives of those who are most vulnerable … to the
social and economic consequences of climate change.”
2.“Enhance adaptive capacity, it is essential to increase the use of
research and development and advanced technology to develop
drought and saline resistant crops, efficient irrigation techniques,
water conservation technologies and improved farming systems
and practices. Other developments may include climate-proofed
infrastructure as well as strengthening risk and vulnerability
assessments, weather data collection and forecasts, early warning
systems, and the development and dissemination of appropriate
knowledge.”
5. Embedding the climate-environment-poverty nexus in large-scale scenarios:
Inclusive green growth and the MDGs

36. Stable economic growth is necessary for poverty alleviation. However, there is a shift
from the “grow first, clean later” attitude to resource efficiency, which luckily coincides
with environmental responsibility. Resource efficiency means a reduction in ecological
footprint and livelihood sustainability. The UN has provided the following list of green
growth policy measures: (www.un.org)
1.Green Tax and Budget Reform

2.Development of Sustainable Infrastructure

3.Promotion of Sustainable Consumption and Production


(Demand‐side Management)

4.Greening Business and Markets

5.Eco‐efficiency Indicators

37. Yet in a number of emerging and developing countries there is a wide gap between
the rich and the poor. This gap exists primarily between city dwellers and those in rural
areas (www.bbcnews.com). An example for successful inclusion of poverty eradication
into sustainable development is the often-cited Republic of Korea, which has grown
economically from being one of the poorest countries in Asia to having the #1 living
standard in Asia with the aid of green growth by: (www.iea.org)
1. “Improving energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption.
By 2030, Korea will reduce its energy intensity level to 0.185
TOE/US$1,000 from the current level of 0.341 TOE/US$1,000, a
difference of 46 percent. It will also cut energy consumption by 42 million
TOE.”
2. “Increasing the supply of clean energy and reducing the use of
fossil fuels. By 2030, fossil fuels will account for only 61 percent of total
energy consumption, down from the current 83 percent, while the use of
renewable energy will increase to 11 percent from 2.4 percent in 2007.”
3. “Boosting the green energy industry. By 2030, Korea’s green
energy technologies will be comparable to levels of most advanced
countries.”
4. “Ensuring its citizens have access to an affordable energy. The
government will ensure that energy sources are accessible and affordable
to low-income households.”

38. A positive example from a lower-income country is Fiji. “Following the template set
forth by UNESCAP, the Government of Fiji has taken a great first step and has
developed and approved a National Employment Centre Decree. The objectives of the
Centre include the promotion of environmentally-friendly employment opportunities and
the creation of social enterprises, green productivity and local economic development
programmes through sustainable enterprise development.” (greengrowth.org) However,
in general terms the issue of pro-poor green growth remains a huge challenge in most
developing and emerging countries. “Although the poor are becoming increasingly
involved in the various stages of development, questions remain as to whether their
inclusion constitutes genuine participation and whether people's capabilities have been
increased in such a manner as to enable them to chart the course of their destinies in
collaboration with the government, NGOs and the international community.” (ADB
website: Inclusive Green Growth)

39. Therefore, it is a prerogative to stress the importance of cultural diversity and social
values, and the principles of accountability and legitimacy for effective MDG
implementation. “Global inequality and its reduction should be given more emphasis: an
explicit call for the reduction of inequality should be paired with the objective of
sustainable, economic growth. Fragile statehood, political instability and larger societal
uncertainties oftentimes pose risks to MDG success and global security and require the
attention of policy-makers. The MDG process needs to entail effective tools and
standards for risk and safety assessment and integrative risk management in a variety of
areas, including those of natural hazards and extreme events, technology,
environmental change, finance or trade.” Also we need to think about perpetuating
sustainable development in the long term (need to broaden the scope beyond the next 5
years and reaching the MDG goals). The science and technology capacity and access to
education in developing countries is critically important for MDG implementation and
should be further strengthened. (www.grforum.org)

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Further web resources

www.globalissues.org/article/425/poverty-and-the-environment (accessed: 17 November


2010)
www.gechh.unu.edu
www.unescap.org
www.iisd.org/economics/poverty
www.ias.unu.edu
www.greengrowth.org
www.iea.org
www.adb.org
www.grforum.org