Overcoming Poverty with Climate Actions
Mongolian farmers holding basin in the field. Royalty Free image. 71160. Rawpixel.

Overcoming Poverty with Climate Actions

That the impacts of climate change will unduly affect the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world is well established. Climate change is embedded within the same complex and interconnected socio-economic, political, technological, industrial and environmental systems as poverty and inequality. In an unequal world, what does the imperative to mitigate and adapt to climate change mean and for whom?

How can actions on climate change be orientated to minimise harm to poor people? What is the role of powerful institutions and governments? Is success enhanced if it also yields co-benefits for poverty and inequality?

We build understanding about how actions on climate change interrelate and interact with the multiple dimensions of poverty and inequality within and between nations. We also seek to explore areas and sectors where the synergies are not so readily identifiable. This includes the more difficult decisions on trade-offs between climate change mitigation and adaption and different dimensions of poverty and inequality.

We explore why some visions have traction and others do not. How can actions to address the causes and impacts of climate change incorporate the multiple dimensions of poverty and inequality, and vice versa? In what ways and under which circumstances do climate change, poverty and inequality interact? What are the structural and systemic barriers and enablers that facilitate or undermine effective work and comprehensive understanding of poverty and climate change actions, and how can these be overcome?

We use political economy approaches, including in the energy, forestry and agricultural sectors, to understand how decisions are made and influenced to create knowledge on the political barriers to the success of technical climate actions.

Our research practice and advocacy contribute to understanding how poverty, climate change and inequality interact for the greatest opportunity.

Current Projects
  • Funded by the British Academy, the Recovery with Dignity (see also here) project generates applied knowledge on experiences of recovery in post-disaster settings within India using historical research and creative, participatory methodologies drawn from the humanities and social sciences. The central tenet of the research is that recovery processes that recognise and respect the dignity of socially differentiated populations will result in more sustainable responses, minimising ongoing trauma.
  • Worsening drought conditions under climate change present huge humanitarian challenges in East African dryland regions. The Drought Resilience In East African dryland Regions (DRIER) project, funded by the Royal Academy, will develop new information tools and data that will enable a range of stakeholders from rural communities to government agencies to access direct information on the state of the water balance in their local area under current and future rainfall conditions.
  • Down2Earth is a four-year project funded under the EU Horizon 2020 programme. The project is aimed at improving information from climate forecasts and projects to support climate adaptation in the drylands of East Africa.
  • The Climate Resilient Development Pathways (CRDP) project, funded by the International Development Research Centre, Canada and the Department for International Development, UK, will synthesize knowledge from three recently completed climate research programmes to identify areas where policy change may be required or a greater focus on adaptation is necessary to help realign the development trajectories of semi-arid regions so they more climate-resilient.
  • The Transforming Social Inequalities through Inclusive Climate Action (TSITICA) project addresses the nexus of climate change, sustainable livelihoods, poverty and inequality to understand how Climate Change Actions (SDG13) can be socio-economically transformative and synergistic with the Agenda 2030 aims of eliminating poverty (SDG1), reducing inequality (SDGs 5 and 10), and providing decent work and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8).
  • The network for Partnerships for Resilience through Innovation and Integrated Management of Emergencies and Disasters (PRIMED) primarily aims to strengthen community preparedness and resilience as a strategic approach for addressing three key global challenges, i.e., sustainable development and poverty reduction, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change.
  • Flame-Free: Solutions to reduce the socio-environmental impacts of fire in Amazonian Forests under Sustainable Use funded by CNPq Brazil (Brazilian Research Council) aims to understand the relationships between small scale agricultural fire management practices, forest fires, and their social-ecological consequences in two sustainable use reserves of the Brazilian Amazon where landscape flammability and the risk of escaped fire has increased in recent years. The intention is to inform integrated fire management within these landscapes that build on diverse knowledge and strengthens response capacity.
  • Evaluating the impact of REDD+ project activities on rates of habitat conversion and local livelihoods in the Gola Forest National Park is funded by the GCRF. This project involves an evaluation of a long-standing REDD+ intervention using a before, after, control and intervention (BACI) approach. A specific focus of this project has been to expand the initial impact metrics to incorporate a perception-based assessment to understand impacts on locally defined human well-being.
Past Highlights
  • Award-winning research into energy from agricultural waste in Southeast Asia brings in farmers’ perspectives to shape current efforts on rice straw and rice husk management and bioenergy development in Southeast Asia and advance agendas on farmer-focussed research, reducing agricultural waste by generating energy, and to ensure that climate actions also have development co-benefits.

  • Women in Environmental Sciences (WiES) brings together women of diverse ethnicities, working in diverse environmental disciplines, so they can address key environmental issues and the way they relate to women

  • Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) was a large, 6-year research project  (led by the University of Cape Town) that ended in 2019 and explored the drivers and dynamics of vulnerability to understand different ways in which the resilience of people and organisations in semi-arid regions could be enhanced.

  • The project, Exploring historical trajectories of exposure, governance and tenure to build resilience to multiple hazards in Small Island Developing States (ran from 2016 to 2017), showed that an ‘all hazards’ approach to building resilience is more effective if placed within the particular historical and cultural contexts through which land use and human settlement patterns were established.

Some Key Publications




  • A research paper published in Global Challenges reflecting on learnings about transdisciplinary research drawing on a 7-year climate change adaptation research programme involving researchers and practitioners
  • A research paper published in Conservation Letters argues that an understanding of the social fit of institutional arrangements is important to support the design of effective environmental governance