Integrating social protection and climate change adaptation: A review


Policymakers are increasingly interested in how social protection is evolving in the context of climate change. This review assesses what the literature tells us about its role in facilitating adaptation in lower income countries. It also explores how far thinking on an integrated “adaptive social protection” (ASP) agenda considers transforming the socioeconomic and political contexts where vulnerability to climate change originates. The review finds that research to date focuses on how instruments such as cash or asset transfers can protect the poor from shocks and stresses, prevent households from falling into poverty as a result of climate change, and promote climate‐resilient livelihoods. However, it cautions that such interventions must go beyond helping households to cope against shocks over short time horizons; they should enable the adoption of forward‐looking strategies for long‐lasting adaptation. Much less attention in the literature is given to whether social protection measures might have transformational effects for recipients. This is despite the fact that the earliest proponents of ASP favored a rights‐based approach to social protection to address issues of inequality and marginalization which are at the root of poverty and vulnerability to climate change. Although the role of social protection should not be overstated, it holds promise as a tool for building adaptive capacity. However, the potential of ASP to be truly transformational for its recipients by tackling the structural causes of vulnerability to climate change is not yet harnessed by policymakers. This constitutes a missed opportunity for the agenda to deliver on the international community’s promise to “leave no one behind.”

Tenzing, JD. Integrating social protection and climate change adaptation: A review. WIREs Clim Change. 2019;e626. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.626