Local Level Climate Justice? Adaptation Finance and Vulnerability Reduction

Climate change creates a double inequality through those communities most at risk being those least responsible for emission increases.  In essence, developed states are responsible for climate change, but are forecast to confront only moderate adverse economic and social effects; on the other hand, least developed states are largely not culpable (especially the very poorest of this group in Africa and Asia) and yet experience significant threats to their livelihoods, assets and security.

Adaptation finance is designed to address inequity by developed states facilitating/funding behaviour adjustments necessary for exposed communities to lessen climate risk.  Nevertheless, do these funds really make a difference to communities on the ground in climate vulnerable localities?


The research investigates the ground-level effectiveness of adaptation finance in climate vulnerable villages across Malawi, while controlling for disparities in vulnerability. Participatory assessments compare actions of villages receiving adaptation finance with those engaging in autonomous and informal adaptations.

The news is good for those actually receiving adaptation finance is that: (a) funds address more climate related risks than autonomous actions alone; and (b) funds enhance the control communities have over their responses to climate variability and change, with positive results for overall security and sustainable climate vulnerability reduction. On the other hand, those without funding address a lower proportion of climate risks and instead develop short-term coping strategies with less enduring vulnerability reduction. Vulnerable communities receiving adaptation finance do change behaviours to reduce climate risk and thus secure local level climate justice.


Barrett, Sam. 2013. Local Level Climate Justice? Adaptation Finance and Vulnerability Reduction. Global Environmental Change 23, 1819-1829.

This paper was the winner of the ‘Development Geographies Specialty Group Student Paper Award’ at the Association of American Geographers. Congratulations Sam

Authored by Sam Barrett researcher for the Climate Change Group in the International Institute for Environment and Development.


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