Poverty increases vulnerability to climate change

There is an important difference between rich and poor countries as regards the consequences of climate change. For many millions in poor countries, climate change will lead to worsening of an already difficult situation. Changes in temperature and precipitation, increased flooding and drought come in addition to other problems, like food insecurity, poor infrastructure, low purchasing power, and unstable political conditions. Poor people are often highly vulnerable even to small changes. Small reductions in crops every year may in time mean that people starve. Poverty is one of the factors that makes local communities and individuals particularly vulnerable, but climate change may also push families and local communities into poverty. Adaptation may make local communities more resistant to both climate shock and economic problems.

Loss and damage – when the last train for adaptation has left

Adaptation to climate change has been on the agenda for a number of years, and there is widespread understanding of its necessity, also within the international framework for climate negotiations. But what do you do when the soil you cultivate, your very livelihood, is swept into the river? When your house cannot be rebuilt, since the sea has moved into your garden? When entire areas have become so dry that not even the camels get enough water? When you no longer can live where you have lived all your life, but have nowhere to move to? When it is no longer possible to adapt, the concept of “loss and damage” enters the picture.

“Loss and damage” became part of the Paris Agreement at the very end of negotiations in 2015, after heavy pressure from many developing countries and environmental organizations. A separate mechanism was established under the Paris Agreement, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), where this is mentioned specifically. The interests of rich and poor countries are often ranged strongly against each other on this point, since it largely involves the question of who carries the historical responsibility for anthropogenic climate change, and how they should support those who now carry the greatest burdens. It turns out that there is still an ocean of difference between the compensations that rich countries are willing to pay and the loss and damage incurred by many developing countries confronted by climate change. This is not limited to economic loss and damage, but also includes non-economic loss, e.g. loss of biological diversity and cultural practices.

In the most extreme cases, climate change forces people to flee. There are already more people fleeing from natural catastrophes than from wars, and the numbers of climate refugees will increase in years to come. Flawed politics, poor infrastructure and lack of information and warning systems mean that natural disasters in low-income countries become crises from which poor people must flee. Add to these people who must move because slow changes over time have led to conditions in which the land is no longer able to serve as a resource base for the people living there.

The rich countries have previously pledged at least 100 billon US dollars annually in climate support for poor countries, but there has been a dearth of delivery.

The Development Fund’s method: Climate-Adapted Villages

We refer to the Development Fund’s method for climate adaptation as Climate-Adapted Villages (CAV). We offer training and support, guide the inhabitants of the villages in question through a process of mapping their own vulnerabilities and deciding on a course of action. The Development Fund contributes by paying for the measures, but the responsibility for implementation rests on the inhabitants and is normally based on resource pooling and cooperative work.

Different areas have differing challenges, and the concrete measures that are implemented vary from place to place. If villagers are threatened by flooding, for example, they might plant trees or build dikes to keep the water away. If they have too little water, it may be more important to build a dam or canals to lead the water to houses and fields. When the village is better adapted, agriculture will become easier and incomes will increase.