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  • Writer's pictureNsedu Awatt

Addressing Social Protection in the face of Climate Change

Social protection has the potential to transform structural inequalities and address the root cause of poverty. It is a good entry point for supporting climate change adaptation and resilience and is prominent in delivering the international community's promise of leaving no one behind. Climate change is, however, considered a significant threat to reducing poverty, eradicating hunger, and achieving sustainable development. It accelerates the frequency and intensity of extreme natural hazards, thus affecting the lives and livelihoods of those living in rural areas. Climate change poses challenges for social protection by reversing progress on poverty reduction and development and increasing pressure on already highly stretched social protection programs as more people are impoverished.

Social protection and climate change adaptation strategies should seek to protect the most vulnerable and promote resilience by protecting the poor and vulnerable from climate change-related risks. Social protection initiatives are unlikely to succeed in reducing poverty if both the short- and long-term shocks and stresses associated with climate change are not considered. There is a need to pay more attention to the long-term risks posed by climate change to identify opportunities for social protection to enhance adaptation and make social protection programs more climate-resilient.

Social Protection and Climate Change

Focusing on the rural poor when designing climate change and social protection policies is critical, as 80 percent of the world's extreme poor live in rural areas. Poor communities experience relatively more significant losses of income and assets following natural disasters, slower recovery, and higher mortality rates in disaster-affected areas compared with the non-poor. Climate change is a significant factor that accelerates the frequency and intensity of extreme natural hazards, leading to increased disasters, which severely impact people's lives and livelihoods.

Social protection could serve as an important instrument in promoting inclusive climate risk adaptation strategies, which can contribute to safeguarding livelihoods and increasing the resilience of the rural poor. The link between social protection and climate change adaptation is called Adaptive social protection. Adaptive social protection involves a long-term perspective encompassing the changing nature of climate-related shocks and stresses. Adaptive Social protection can support inclusive disaster preparedness and response by reaching the poor rural populations affected by climate shocks quickly and cost-effectively. More generally, it addresses climate risk management;

· Supporting poverty reduction by helping households to maintain and build up assets that would prevent falling back into poverty.

· By increasing household livelihoods diversification, thus reducing the vulnerability of the chronically poor exposed to climate-related shocks and stresses.

· Moreover, preventing the use of coping strategies that may cause further damage.

Social Safety nets (or social assistance) are a principal instrument of social protection in developing countries like Nigeria. This social protection program has considered climate change adaptation as an objective. In recent times, The Nigerian government has identified linkages and actions between social protection, climate change, and poverty reduction through partnerships with development, humanitarian, and climate actors. They have also leveraged social protection to reduce vulnerability and enhance the resilience of rural livelihoods and rural economies to the increasing threat of climate shocks. However, ensuring that interventions effectively target/ reach the households exposed to climate shock is a significant challenge.

The Government also supports the development of sustainable climate change policies by bringing together technical solutions and socioeconomic interventions. The technical solutions aim to increase rural households' capacity to cope with and adapt to climate shocks. At the same time, socioeconomic interventions address the barriers that the poor and most vulnerable face in their efforts to enhance their resilience. A thorough understanding of the structural causes of poverty in a particular region or sector coupled with a lack of effective mechanisms targeting vulnerability to multiple shocks and stresses remains a barrier to achieving this goal.


Social protection functions include protection, prevention, promotion, and transformation. Social protection can also facilitate voluntary resettlement as a forward-looking and long-term adaptation strategy by developing more effective and inclusive actions for adaptation and mitigation. By so doing, Social protection instruments should be made predictable and flexible, and the value and duration should be sufficient to protect and promote livelihood diversification.

Emphasis should be placed on transforming, protecting productive livelihoods, and adapting to changing climate conditions rather than simply reinforcing coping mechanisms. Social protection programs should be targeted at delivering other services and reaching the vulnerable, promoting knowledge and innovations, strengthening relevant capacities of households and communities, and helping to advance successful outcomes for climate change adaptation.

The government should integrate programs to support climate change adaptation through social protection at all levels. Such programs should support adaptation by promoting income-generating activities, livelihood diversification, and financial inclusion and promoting opportunities and strategies to deal with future risks. Furthermore, tools, resources, and guidance materials concerning climate risk assessment should be developed and used with social protection programs. Facilitating dialogue and coordinating climate actors to assess the needs and identify entry points is a critical aspect of the national social protection system that should be strengthened to deliver adaptation outcomes.

Given that this is an emerging area, Government should support collaboration and integrate social protection into adaptation funding. In conclusion, ensuring that interventions effectively target households facing economic, social, and legal barriers and a general focus on interventions that use social protection measures to achieve climate change adaptation is critical to achieving mitigation objectives.

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