Can Social Protection Tackle Risks Emerging from Climate Change, and How? a Framework and a Critical Review
24 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2022 Last revised: 25 Oct 2022
Date Written: September 1, 2022
Climate change is transforming the risks individuals and households face, with potentially profound socioeconomic consequences for both people and society, such as increased poverty, inequality, and social instability. Social protection is a policy tool governments have used to help individuals and households manage life-cycle as well as other income-, employment-, and livelihood-related risks, and to achieve societal outcomes including poverty, inequality, and vulnerability reduction. While social protection could play a role in addressing increasing risks from climate change in the social domain, there appears to still be limited integration between social protection and climate policies and interventions in lower and middle income countries (LMICs). The concept of risk is key both to the climate and the social protection fields, and has implication for policy making. However, existing arguments and guidance on the potential of social protection for climate change rarely consider in full the nature and type of risks climate change creates or exacerbates, potentially reducing their applicability and outcomes.
In this paper we aim to understand in what way and to what extent climate change transforms the risks that are relevant for social protection in LMICs, and its implications for the role of social protection under rising climate risks. We propose a novel conceptual framework that categorises climate risks, their drivers, and their implications for social protection; provide a comprehensive critical review of existing conceptual arguments for what social protection could do and evidence of what it so far does to manage rising risks arising from climate change; and derive a set of climate-resilient social protection roles. We find that there is a subset of risks driven by climate change that are relevant to social protection, that they are significant, and that while they might not require a complete rethinking of social protection, they do require an important shift in the way these policies are conceptualised to include both increased demand and a shift in risks. We recommend ways to reconceptualise the role of social protection to address shifting risks arising from climate change, and outline areas for future research.
Keywords: social protection, social policy, climate risk framework, climate change responses, climate-resilient development
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