Written by Anna McCord*


Accelerating climate change will fundamentally change social protection needs and response options in the Asia Pacific region, posing significant challenges for social protection systems in the future. Equally, social protection will be critical to manage the impacts of climate change and support the green transition.

These are the findings of a DFAT funded study carried out by the Climate Change and Social Protection Research Initiative (CCASP) that Anna McCord* and Sayanti Sengupta** will share in an upcoming webinar, Rethinking Social Protection and Climate Change - Implications of climate change for social protection policy and programming in the Asia-Pacific Region, hosted by socialprotection.org on November 16, 2023, at 15:30 (GMT+11).  

The research draws on evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in 2022, and a series of interviews with climate and social protection experts.  At the webinar, McCord and Sengupta will share findings on how climate change will result in significant socio-economic disruptions in the region in the coming decades, profoundly reshaping the risks people face and the ability of many to continue to meet their basic needs. 


How can social protection respond to climate change?

Climate change will severely exacerbate existing socio-economic drivers of poverty in multiple ways.  The most serious implications include the loss of livelihoods, food and water insecurity, infrastructural breakdown and significant health challenges which will increase the depth and scale of poverty globally, including across the Asia-Pacific region. This will render new groups vulnerable, intensify challenges for those already marginalised and negatively impact almost all aspects of human development. Consequent changes in patterns of poverty and vulnerability will require a fundamental rethink of approaches to social protection design and delivery.

Social protection can play multiple roles in responding to these climate challenges, ranging from poverty reduction, resilience building, shock response, and adaptation, to mitigation. Furthermore, social protection has the potential to  support the implementation of policies to promote a more just transition, designed to  respond to the impacts of the closure of ‘brown industries’ and help those affected by subsidy removals and carbon pricing.

The research outlines the important role social protection could play in helping to manage climate-related challenges and enable the structural changes required to achieve a green transition. To contribute effectively, existing social protection systems will need significant transformation.


Rethinking social protection amidst climate change challenges

Policymakers will need to rethink social protection design and implementation modalities to accommodate challenges such as the occurrence of mass covariate shocks, industrial restructuring, changing labour markets, carbon pricing, climate migration and transboundary needs, and how to support those who are reaching the limits to livelihoods adaptation, as well as the broader national, regional and international institutional frameworks which currently govern provision. Addressing these challenges will have implications for both national governments and also the major development partners working in the social protection sector. 

The accelerating climate crisis means there is an urgency to develop appropriate social protection instruments and position national and international systems to manage the challenges ahead.  A key first step at national and regional levels is for social protection programme development to be informed by an understanding of the profound future poverty implications of climate change.


To hear more on these issues and share your own insights, join us for the above mentioned upcoming webinar. The webinar will be based on the findings of the report Rethinking Social Protection and Climate Change: The medium-term implications of climate change for social protection policy and programming in the Asia-Pacific Region.  It was prepared for DFAT by Cecilia Costella and Anna McCord of the Climate Change and Social Protection Research Initiative (CCASP).  The report will be published in November 2023 and will be available through DFAT’s social protection publications page : Social protection publications | Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (dfat.gov.au)


*Anna McCord is a social protection and climate change researcher, co-founder of the Climate Change and Social Protection Research Initiative (CCASP) and Senior Research Associate at ODI –  Equity and Social Policy team . In recent years she has been commissioned to work with DFAT, FCDO, KfW and the European Commission  to explore various dimensions of the relationship between climate and social protection.   She is also a member of the advisory group of the USB2030 Working Group on Climate Change, an open access group that provides space for knowledge building and sharing as well as a platform for international interdisciplinary cooperation. See other studies co-authored by McCord: (i) Pathways for Social Protection in the Just Transition of Low- and Middle-Income Countries KFW report, (ii) Social protection and climate change: scaling up ambition, and (iii) Can social protection tackle emerging risks from climate change, and how? A framework and a critical review.


** Sayanti Sengupta is a social protection and climate change expert working as a Technical Advisor at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and as an Independent Consultant and Advisor to several agencies including UNICEF, ILO, the European Commission, Poverty and Inclusion, and Climate Change and Social Protection Research initiative (CCASP).  Over the last five years, she has supported national governments and institutions in strengthening social protection systems to become more climate responsive. Her expertise includes designing and implementing social protection pilots, conducting feasibility studies, risk and vulnerability assessments and stress tests for anticipatory social protection systems across Asian and African countries.


Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
  • Social insurance
  • Labour market / employment programmes
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
  • Programme design
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Adaptive social protection
  • Shock-responsive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Climate change
    • Climate Change Adaptation
    • Climate Change Mitigation
  • East Asia & Pacific
  • South Asia
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's