Climate change -- a global, national, and local issue

A new IFPRI policy brief argues that successful climate change strategies and poverty reduction aren’t mutually exclusive

Forest preserved by community – Nepal

On April 23, environmentalists, celebrities, and concerned citizens will meet in Washington, DC for a massive Earth Day climate rally. As they gather on the National Mall to call on the U.S. government to pass a comprehensive climate bill that lays out a national plan for mitigation and adaptation, similar rallies will unfold in capitals across the globe.

A few weeks later, in late May, high-level climate change officials will congregate in Bonn, Germany to re-start the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations.

Despite the collaborative nature of these events and the consensus that climate change is a collective problem that demands collective solutions, one group is often overlooked in the mitigation and adaptation strategies produced by the top-down climate change regime: smallholder farmers and the rural poor in the developing world—the very groups that are most adversely affected by the two phenomenon that characterize climate change, global warming and the increase in extreme weather events.

A new policy brief from the CGIAR Systemwide Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi), The Role of Collective Action and Property Rights in Climate Change Strategies, reveals that many mitigation and adaptation policies currently in place not only overlook, but also hinder, the rural poor’s livelihoods.

For example, national and international mitigation schemes that reward landowners for planting drought and pest resistant crops, harvesting water, protecting forests, and engaging in other carbon-reducing efforts, exclude farmers without clear land ownership. Strengthening land tenure rights to millions of smallholder farmers, and adapting REDD and other environmental service payments to acknowledge customary land rights, would both encourage them to invest in mitigation strategies and enable them to diversify their incomes and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

The brief argues that such win-win mitigation and adaptation strategies that boost—rather than burden—the rural poor and smallholder farmers are in reach as long as policymakers integrate insights from farmer collectives and other local-level institutions into the policy-making process. Only these harmonious, multi-level policies can effectively reduce the impact of climate change on the poor.