Poverty & Displacement
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Poverty & displacement

Climate change causes disasters like droughts and floods, and people and communities who are poorer are less likely to be able to prepare for such events. Sometimes continuing after-effects or consequences mean that they cannot continue to live in the same way - or the same place - afterwards. This often leads to even worse poverty, and a downward spiral develops.

Refugees are often on the front line of the climate emergency, and have the least resources to adapt to a changing environment.

On this page I look at some aspects of how climate change affects the poorest, and at how displaced people often bear the brunt of its worst effects.

The OECD and the need for adaptation

In this paper the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) focus on the impacts of climate change on poverty reduction efforts. In the paper ways of mainstreaming and integrating adaptation to climate change into poverty reduction and sustainable development efforts are discussed.

The key messages from the paper are

  • Climate change is happening and will increasingly affect the poor;
  • Adaptation is necessary and there is a need to integrate responses to climate change and adaptation measures into strategies for poverty reduction to ensure sustainable development.


In addition to the need for adaptation, they also highlight dependence on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere.


Climate change and disaster displacement

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) states that "Climate change is the defining crisis of our time and disaster displacement one of its most devastating consequences".

It has a climate action plan focused on three main areas:

  • Law and policy;
  • Operations;
  • UNHCR's environmental footprint.


You can find out more about their strategic framework for climate action here.

In the lead-up to COP26 the UNHCR were urging all participants to

  • combat the growing and disproportionate impacts of the climate emergency on the most vulnerable countries and communities — in particular those displaced and their hosts;
  • support vulnerable countries and communities in their efforts to rapidly scale up prevention and preparedness measures to avert, minimize and address displacement.