Global Resources

Empowering the poor in a changing climate: experiences from UNDP supported initiatives on adaptation

Publisher: United Nations Development Programme
Publication Date: Oct 2015

The threat of climate change undermining global development efforts is becoming increasingly clear. Climate variability, more intense and frequent extreme-weather events, and growing inequalities are among the impacts being felt, suffered most by the poorest and most vulnerable people. This calls into question whether climate adaptation and poverty alleviation efforts should be intertwined. The links between adaptation and poverty are explored in this comprehensive report.


The case studies and country profiles presented describe UNDP projects around the world, and reflect the report’s focus on four main themes:

  • Coordinating and strengthening institutional technical and functional capacities, and public sector mandates to ensure an effective response to climate change.
  • Empowering communities to identify solutions, establish mechanisms, and scale-up local innovation to combat climate change impacts.
  • Stimulating small- and medium-sized enterprises through reducing barriers to finance and markets, and via private sector engagement and investment.
  • Supporting governments to integrate climate change risks into key development plans, policies, and strategies.

The publication draws on UNDP experiences in a wide variety of contexts and regions. Examples include the establishment of climate-sensitive health planning systems in Ghana; helping the most vulnerable build resilience in Namibia; creating sustainable cooperatives in Columbia; and supporting women’s enterprises in Niger. In the Niger initiative, women were provided with sewing centres and more accessible water supplies; used in conjunction, this allowed women more access to a new income-generating opportunity. As they are often the main providers of food and household welfare, it is vital that such coordinated strategies in sustainable development be targeted toward women.

The report concludes that climate adaptation and poverty reduction are inherently linked; and that pursuing one over the other is likely to be ineffective, as well as inefficient. The capacity for climate change impacts to act as risk multipliers, together with the already significant poverty-related challenges developing countries presently face, means that poverty reduction and climate change must be addressed together. As illustrated by the examples set forth in this report, it is possible to integrate poverty alleviation and climate adaptation efforts, be it through supporting governments in developing new institutions and evidence-based, pro-poor policy-making, or through bottom-up approaches at the household and community level.