Can social protection tackle emerging risks from climate change, and how? A framework and a critical review
Climate change is transforming the risks individuals and households face, with potentially profound socioeconomic consequences such as increased poverty, inequality, and social instability. Social protection is a policy tool that governments use to help individuals and households manage risks linked to income and livelihoods, and to achieve societal outcomes such as reducing poverty and inequality. Despite its potential as a policy response to climate change, the integration of social protection within the climate policy agenda is currently limited. While the concept of risk is key to both sectors, different understandings of the nature and scope of climate change impacts and their implications, as well as of the adequacy of social protection instruments to address them, contribute to the lack of policy and practice integration. Our goal is to bridge this cognitive gap by highlighting the potential of social protection as a policy response to climate change. Using a comprehensive climate risk lens, we first explore how climate change drives risks that are within the realm of social protection, and their implications, including likely future trends in demand for social protection. Based on this analysis, we critically review existing arguments for what social protection can do and evidence of what it currently does to manage risks arising from climate change. From the analysis, a set of reconceptualised roles emerge for social protection to strategically contribute to climate-resilient development.