The Impact of Climate Change on People Living in Poverty

Poverty continues to remain a critical challenge of our time. According to a recent World Bank study, the number of poor people is now estimated at 1.4 billion, an increase of 500 million from earlier estimates of 980 million. Over the years, while the percentage of people living in extreme poverty continues to decline globally, in many countries, particularly in the LDCs, the progress is slow and uneven. The number of people with insufficient access to food had risen.

This perennial problem has further been aggravated by the international financial uncertainty and instability, soaring food and fuel prices and rapid pace of climate change along with its phenomenal extreme weather events. According to a recent study, the current crises will push around 119 million people into extreme poverty by next year. Climate change will put extra 50 million people at risk of hunger by 2020. These have made it even more difficult to reach the MDG target of cutting by half the proportion of people living in poverty between 1990 and 2015.

The magnitude and complexity of the challenge of poverty calls for a comprehensive action. We need to better understand the nature and the range of deep rooted obstacles to sustained and speedy poverty eradication. We support the recommendation of Secretary-General to develop a comprehensive and pragmatic plan of action in support of these resolutions, particularly the implementation of the Second Decade of Poverty Eradication.

This plan of action should include a program of substantive work spanning the analytical, normative and operational work of the United Nations in the areas of poverty eradication. The plan should also identify the specific roles and mandates of different UN agencies. There should also be an annual monitoring mechanism to review the status of implementation of the action plan by all stakeholders. Climate Change is indeed, one of the most serious challenges humanity has ever faced, it’s not because that superstorm Sandy caused a USD 60 billion loss in few hours. As per Climate Vulnerability Monitor, climate change causes 400,000 deaths each year and climate-related losses amount to USD 1.2 trillion or 1.6 per cent of the global GDP in 2010.

***If its crop fields go underwater or salinity makes its land less productive, or it is forced to divert its scarce resources away from nation-building efforts to rehabilitation of climate refugees or erection of higher embankments, the nation is sure to face¬† enormous challenges and its hope to eradicate poverty could be eroded.***Such loss is expected to increase rapidly, reaching 6 million deaths and 3.2 per cent of DGP in net average by 2030 (CVM, 2012). The modest achievement of developing countries, particularly of LDC’s might vanquish in the blink of eyes by a sweep of cyclone, flood or land erosion. Indeed, many of the LDCs development budget are now shunted to address the havoc perpetrated by the erratic climate behaviour.

Its impact is simply devastating. Many of the IADGs are now reversed in these countries, while their people are left with hunger, poverty, unemployment and uncertainty. One such scourge is environmental refugees, where people are displaced from their own living and livelihood for the reasons they are not responsible.Bangladesh, because of its leadership commitment, sustained efforts, innovative techniques, targeted approaches, and hard-working dynamic people, it has been doing very good in terms of achieving MDG goals.

It has either achieved or on tract in achieving most of the MDG goals such as MDG-1 (poverty), MDG-2 (school enrolment), MDG-3 (gender parity), MDG-4 (infant death), MDG-5 (maternity death) etc. its poverty rate has reduced from nearly 60 per cent in 1990 to 30 per cent now and its infant mortality rate has declined by over 67 per cent.
But, it is afraid of sustainability — a single devastating cyclone or one-meter sea level rise may wash away its achievements. Bangladesh is a very fertile land and the contribution of its agriculture sector to its GDP growth rate is very significant.

If its crop fields go under water or salinity makes its land less productive, or it is forced to divert its scarce resources away from nation building efforts to rehabilitation of climate refugees or erection of higher embankments, the nation is sure to face enormous challenges and its hope to eradicate poverty could be eroded. As per estimate, salinity reduces productivity of rice by 14 per cent, wheat by 45 per cent and maize by 15 per cent and therefore, unless appropriate efforts are taken to manage climate change, food deficiency and poverty is difficult to overcome.

Unless these measures are taken, it would be difficult to achieve the desirable goals of MDG by 2015. It may end up in many countries especially in LDCs just like BPoA as an ‘unfinished agenda’. These constitute the minimum support, which the countries involved could give as redemption for their misuse and abuse of resources, and of course, reckless drive for development which now threatens the very existence of countries like many of ours. Resources and technology are imperative for adaptation and mitigation programs.
Bangladesh has already adopted a 134-point climate change action plan, most of which face delay in implementation due to paucity of funds, and climate Trust Fund with its own domestic resource.

Post Rio+20 or Post 2015-agenda while should focus on social, economic and environmental sustainability in a holistic manner, it should also focus among others on the following areas. LDCs should be ensured of universal access to affordable, reliable energy and related technologies, appropriate investment in water infrastructure, its management and sanitation, especially in the rural areas, financial and technical support for the enhancement of food and nutritional security and provision of high-yielding and climate resilient seed varieties and fertilizers as well as helping combat desertification and land degradation.

Likewise, the LDCs also need investment in infrastructure; food and energy security and support for sustainable development of forests and mountains and protection of biodiversity, sustainable use of marine resources, and protection from disasters and vulnerability of small islands, mountain countries, coastal countries and other vulnerable countries in the LDCs.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, poverty anywhere is poverty all over. Hence, eliminating poverty and attaining prosperity is a treasured dream and revered duty for the humanity. It is a boundless pursuit of justice, equality and fairness.


The Daily Observer, 12 October 2017, Bangladesh.

A K Abdul Momen

Representative, Bangladesh to the United Nations, and

this article is extracted from his speech in

New York on ‘The Impact of Climate

Change on People living in Poverty’