Development that also grows those at risk and those in poverty

Peter J Glynn, International Movement ATD Fourth World

Climate change impacts all countries, but has the most detrimental effects on people living in poverty within national boundaries. Despite the provisions in the current agreements that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities, the most vulnerable communities, particularly those affected by poverty, are still most exposed to the damaging impacts of climate change. As we move into the final stages of negotiations for the new climate agreement, it is our responsibility to ensure that our actions insulate and protect the poor and those most at risk.

In the recent exchange of views on the contents of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), fewer than 10 submissions proposed measures to protect the most vulnerable communities, particularly those living in poverty. The new climate agreement provides an opportunity to exploit the potential synergies between climate change response and sustainable development, both of which contribute to the fight against poverty. In this regard, civil society should be active in their representations to Parties to ensure that the 2015 agreement and the INDCs feature strategies that effectively counteract the marked vulnerabilities of people living in poverty.
The non-governmental organisation (NGO) ATD Fourth World sees potential to improve future agreements and the INDCs (including the up-front information) to better address the needs of the most marginalised people in three areas: poverty eradication, data and reporting, and finance.

Poverty eradication

On identifying synergies, ATD Fourth World has found wide agreement that climate change impacts all countries, but that it has a greater adverse impact on the most vulnerable communities, particularly people living in poverty. The 2010 Cancun Agreements reflect the awareness of governments that responses to climate change should be coordinated with social and economic development. They note that, “economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries,” yet, it is important to consider the primacy of these issues in developed countries as well.

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) notes that, “differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from non-climatic factors and from multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes.” Further, “People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change and also to some adaptation and mitigation.”

Data and reporting

It is of upmost importance that the Parties use a reporting and monitoring structure that will give particular attention to these communities. In order to ensure that the most vulnerable communities are adequately targeted by climate-change policy, it is critical to use disaggregated data when measuring the effects of climate change and corresponding responses. When the particular impacts on the most vulnerable communities are adequately captured, parties will be more able to concentrate efforts on these communities and assess the success of targeted measures.


In order to ensure that funding reaches the most vulnerable communities, Parties must take concrete actions to guarantee the provision of immediate and adequate funding and to demonstrate how the funds are used to benefit of the most vulnerable communities. Both developed and developing country parties should ensure that their nationally determined budgets for climate change response strategies direct resources to the communities that are most vulnerable and least equipped to cope with the effects of climate change.

The 2015 negotiation period should be regarded as an opportunity to address the structural inequities that exist in our societies and to introduce measures to protect those societies from the harmful effects of climate change. Many expect that the erratic and extreme weather events will continue, as will the rise in sea levels. The poorest segments of society are the least equipped to adapt to changing environments and are therefore the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. If governments fail to combat climate change with people living in poverty, it is very likely that response measures will work against these vulnerable communities. We cannot ignore the problem and their plight.