Without the right policies to keep the poor safe from extreme weather and rising seas, climate change could drive over 100 million more people into poverty by 2030, the World Bank said on Sunday.
In a report, the bank said ending poverty – one of 17 new U.N. goals adopted in September – would be impossible if global warming and its effects on the poor were not accounted for in development efforts.
But more ambitious plans to reduce climate-changing emissions – aimed at keeping global temperature rise within an internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees Celsius – must also cushion poor people from any negative repercussions, it added.
“Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.
The bank’s estimate of 100 million more poor by 2030 is on top of 900 million expected to be living in extreme poverty if development progresses slowly. In 2015, the bank puts the number of poor at 702 million people.
Around the world, climate change could lead to a 5% decline in crop yields by 2030 and 30% by 2080. Disease spread during extreme weather events also threaten to exacerbate global poverty, the report found.
Poor countries face the most risk as global warming worsens. For one, regions in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will be worst hit by higher temperatures, according to the report. Globally, poor households are more vulnerable to increases in food prices, and poor communities are often built in areas most susceptible to the risks of climate change like flooding.
He described ending poverty and tackling climate change as “the defining issues of our generation”.
“The best way forward is to tackle poverty alleviation and climate change in an integrated strategy,” he told reporters.
Poor families are more vulnerable to climate stresses than the rich because their main assets are often badly built homes and degrading land, and their losses are largely uninsured, the report said.
The report underscores a growing understanding among experts that all development goals must be interconnected with climate-change concerns. Addressing climate change will be essential to ending poverty and hunger and providing access to energy around the globe.
“Ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a statement. “Climate change hits the poorest the hardest.”
Low-income households in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are particularly at risk of having their hard-won gains wiped out by climate-linked disasters, forcing them back into extreme poverty, it added.
The report warns that, between now and 2030, climate policies can do little to alter the amount of global warming that will happen, making it vital to invest in adaptation measures and broader ways to make people more resilient.
When Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu this March, a payout from a regional catastrophe risk scheme helped speed the response. When drought in Ethiopia led to a hunger crisis in 2011, a national program providing food and cash in return for work on community projects was quickly expanded.
Better social safety nets and health coverage for all, together with targeted improvements such as flood defenses, early warning systems and hardier crops, could prevent or offset most of the negative effects of climate change on poverty in the next 15 years, the report said.
“We have a window of opportunity to achieve our poverty objectives in the face of climate change, provided we make wise policy choices now,” said Stephane Hallegatte, a senior World Bank economist who led the team that prepared the report.
Roome highlighted the need to roll out good policies faster, and ensure development projects consider climate projections, so that new infrastructure is not damaged in the future.
Beyond 2030, the world’s ability to adapt to unabated climate change will be limited, warned the report, released ahead of a U.N. climate summit from Nov. 30-Dec. 11 where a new deal to curb global warming is due to be agreed.
To rein in the longer-term impacts on poverty, immediate policies are needed that bring emissions to zero by the end of this century, the World Bank said.
Some of those will have benefits for the poor, such as cleaner air, more energy efficiency and better public transport.
The World Bank has been a key supporter of financing efforts to help the developing world adapt to climate change. Developed countries have previously agreed to direct $100 billion annually in climate-related aid to developing countries by 2020.