Journal Article

IDS Bulletin Vol. 39 Nos. 4

The Economic Case for Pro-Poor Adaptation: What do we Know?

Published on 1 September 2008

The world is already locked into climate change, regardless of our success at stabilising emissions.

Under a best case mitigation scenario, temperatures will continue to rise until around 2050 (UNDP 2007). Developing countries will be among the most exposed, with the physical impacts disproportionately felt by poor and marginalised households and communities. Economic, social and environmental sensitivity to climatic conditions and poverty-driven low adaptive capacity compound their exposure and amplify existing challenges. Managing the inevitable impacts of climate change will therefore be critical in sustaining development achievements.

The objective of this article is to consider what we know, and still do not know, about the economic case for pro-poor adaptation, focusing on the following propositions:

  • That adaptation is integral to and indivisible from development. Managing the impacts of a changing climate requires a greater shift towards climate-resilient development; and resilient economic growth is a key element of this, providing many of the opportunities and resources required for adaptation
  • That households and communities will autonomously adapt but climate change risks undermine already overstretched coping strategies
  • That well-functioning markets and a robust private sector are important drivers of adaptation in developing countries but will be constrained by market failures and other barriers
  • That governments have an essential role in supporting pro-poor adaptation: deploying poverty-focused measures to help poor people avoid climate-driven poverty traps and addressing constraints that limit autonomous adaptation and provision of adaptation services by the private sector
  • That those governments will have to make choices given budgetary constraints and the additional costs of climate-resilient development.

There are many other factors to be considered outside of this article, from the role of technology to the role of institutions. This article considers what needs to be done at a national level and by whom to ensure limited public resources deliver pro-poor adaptation in an efficient, effective and equitable manner.

Related Content

This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 39.4 (2008) The Economic Case for Pro‐Poor Adaptation: What do we Know?

Cite this publication

Vernon, T. (2008) The Economic Case for Pro?Poor Adaptation: What do we Know?. IDS Bulletin 39(4): 32-41


Tamsin Vernon

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies


Related content