How we can address climate change and poverty together
By Daniel Jasper
With the recent commitment to create the Loss and Damage fund at COP27, a robust and ongoing conversation around World Bank reform, and a renewed United States interest in Africa, there is emerging recognition of the urgent need to support communities on the front lines of climate change. This is a positive trend.
But policymakers must support solutions that address climate and poverty simultaneously, as there are proven interconnected solutions capable of addressing both challenges. Time is of the essence, as the dangers of a warming world are becoming increasingly evident.
In 2022 alone, catastrophic floods swept through Pakistan, Malaysia, and West Africa; heatwaves scorched South and Central Asia, China, and Europe; extreme storms battered the Philippines and the U.S.; and a punishing drought gripped the Horn of Africa.
The climate is changing everywhere, but in low- and middle-income countries, preparing for, surviving, and rebuilding in the aftermath of extreme weather events represents a far greater challenge than it does for the populations of high-income countries. Action on climate and poverty cannot be separated from one another.
Climate solutions that work
The good news is that numerous double-duty climate solutions to improve human well-being and advance development already exist, and these measures can be scaled up by policymakers and financial institutions alike.
Project Drawdown has identified 28 climate solutions in the fields of improving agriculture and agroforestry, protecting and restoring ecosystems, adopting clean cooking, providing clean electricity, and fostering equality. These powerful, financially viable, and proven climate solutions also generate valuable co-benefits for communities in low- and middle-income countries in areas as diverse as food security, income, water and sanitation, health, gender equality, and more.
In Africa and South Asia, climate solutions like regenerative annual cropping and tree intercropping can alleviate stress on crops brought on by high temperatures and drought. In turn, these systems can improve earnings and livelihoods and help strengthen water and food security as well.
Meanwhile, transitioning to clean cooking in South Asia and Africa could eliminate not only 86 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years (making it an important and achievable win for the climate) but could also serve as a crucial public health intervention with the potential to prevent 3.2 million premature deaths globally every year. And as an added benefit, time saved gathering fuelwood also frees up valuable time for children to attend school and for adults—especially women—to engage in economic activities.
Climate commitment to the Global South
Inaction is no longer an option, as the stakes are extraordinarily high. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have contributed less than 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions yet are home to 80% of the world’s population who are experiencing multidimensional poverty. Now that we find ourselves in a global race to mitigate, adapt, and respond to the impacts of climate change, we must recognize a difficult truth—those most vulnerable to climate change are also those least responsible for the crisis.
Despite this historical injustice, Africans and South Asians are making strides to demonstrate to the world what sustainable, resilient development looks like in the face of a changing climate. In support of such efforts, global leaders and decision-makers at climate finance institutions, donors, and companies must rapidly scale up resources for these regions to deploy climate solutions that can meaningfully improve the well-being and resilience of those living on the front lines of climate change.
Image: Lindsay Mgbor/UK Department for International Development file
Daniel Jasper is a policy advisor for Drawdown Lift. He works on multidisciplinary solutions for climate change and poverty alleviation, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Dan is based in the United States.