Climate change

Climate change hits poor communities first and worst. It disproportionately affects those most vulnerable and least able to adapt to more frequent and more severe storms, droughts, and floods. Oxfam helps these communities prepare for disasters and build resilience to adapt and find long-term solutions.

Climate change threatens to derail global efforts to combat hunger and poverty. That risk is imminent, and the scientific community agrees that the effects of climate change will intensify over the coming decades. The harsh reality is that the people least responsible for causing climate change bear the brunt of its impacts. Poor communities, particularly women and marginalized groups, face the greatest peril.

Oxfam believes that vulnerable communities deserve financial and technical support so they can build resilience and cope with more erratic, extreme, and destructive weather patterns and events. The needs and perspectives of both men and women must inform sound policies and strategies for confronting and adapting to climate change. At the same time, the world must sharply curb greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. We are working to shift government policies, to convince companies to reduce emissions, and to invest in climate solutions in vulnerable developing countries.


In 2007 Oxfam embarked on a global campaign to raise awareness of how climate change affects the most vulnerable communities and to urge global leaders to take action. These policy and advocacy efforts encourage the US and other developed countries to fulfill their international commitments to deliver new, additional, and adequate international financial support for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Such funding must be delivered in a fair, accountable, and transparent way, reaching those communities most susceptible to climate impacts. Oxfam also works to influence the US government to take leadership in international processes essential to achieving fair and ambitious climate action globally. Additionally, Oxfam strives to engage the private sector to build climate resilience throughout value chains and to engage governments to do the same—after all, business risk is community risk, and vice versa.

In developing countries, Oxfam works with civil society organizations to ensure greater transparency and accountability for how climate adaptation funds are used and to build local knowledge and capacity to access those funds.

We fund projects, implemented through civil society organizations in developing countries, to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities. A high priority is helping small-scale farmers adopt agricultural practices that will buffer them from the harmful effects of climate change. For example, in rural areas of Southeast Asia and Haiti we are working with rice farmers to adjust their crop cycles to changing weather patterns, so that they are able to grow enough rice to feed their families even when the rains come late. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) program is training farmers in techniques that produce more resilient rice crops while using less water.

And, through our R4 Rural Resilience Initiative in parts of Ethiopia and West Africa we have helped families avoid the crushing losses droughts can have on farmers by empowering them with a set of integrated risk management tools and strategies, namely improved resource management (risk reduction), insurance (risk transfer), microcredit (prudent risk taking), and increased savings (risk reserves).

Starting in 2014, Oxfam’s GROW campaign will focus on the link between food and climate justice. As part of this campaign, we will call for alternative, community-based sustainable energy systems that reach poor communities, including people living in energy poverty in rural areas. We will also call for greater investment in agro-ecological practices that will help farmers, particularly women farmers, increase their access to nutritious food despite greater climate shocks.

Goals & priorities

Oxfam’s climate change goals and priorities cut across policy, programs, private sector actors, and campaigns to deliver the greatest impact for poor, vulnerable communities in developing countries. We work with others to help these communities build resilience and find solutions that address the specific challenges they face.

People are at the center of our approach to climate change. Our goals include calling for global action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), strengthening the capacity of people, organizations, and institutions to understand and manage risk, and developing climate resilient solutions (adaptation). We strive to create the necessary space to allow the voices of vulnerable men and women to be heard in national deliberations over policy. And we work to ensure that national-level development processes and investments promote resilience and prioritize vulnerable communities.

Our advocacy seeks to persuade the US government to:

  • Pursue an ambitious agenda to cut greenhouse gas emissions, prevent catastrophic climate change, and promote low-carbon energy economies.
  • Shoulder its fair share of the burden of keeping the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Deliver on existing funding commitments for international climate finance (money to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries). Currently, developed countries have committed to mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate finance. These funds are supposed to be new and in addition to existing funding.
  • Mobilize this new and additional funding to support climate change resilience and low-carbon development pathways in vulnerable countries. These pathways can include incentives to attract private sector investment.
  • End policies and payments that encourage carbon pollution, including subsidies for fossil fuels, and preserve policies that incentivize climate-friendly investment such as the current rules for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) capping emissions from financed investments. Oxfam works to prevent Congress from weakening these rules under the Electrify Africa Bill.
  • Be more transparent and accountable in tracking and delivering international climate finance, as well as in integrating climate change into existing programs. Oxfam and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the US government is double-counting investments in climate change adaptation that also fund development. Adequate procedures must be in place to ensure that money allocated to climate change is going toward it and actually delivering results.
  • Influence the board of the Green Climate Fund, which was formed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) to provide funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. The Green Climate Fund, still in the design phase, is supposed to administer the $100 billion in contributions from developed countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Oxfam wants countries to be able to directly access this funding for country-driven climate change programs. (The current climate finance architecture is complicated, featuring multiple funds, each with its own priorities and procedures for accessing money. Developing countries find it difficult to figure out where to go and how to meet all the criteria required. Consequently, they depend on the UN or World Bank to initiate the process and propose projects. Oxfam wants the Green Climate Fund to build country capacity so that in the future governments no longer need to rely on multilateral institutions to access funds and can take more responsibility for designing and implementing their own programs.) Read more.
    • Establish a credible mechanism for channeling finance in a transparent and equitable way to the most vulnerable countries and communities.
    • Build capacity for developing countries and communities to access funds.
  • Engage developed-country governments to participate constructively in international processes to (1) achieve fair and ambitious climate action globally, (2) address issues of equity and countries’ historic responsibilities for dirty emissions, and (3) acknowledge differences in countries’ capacity to pay for mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • Work with companies to (1) increase climate resilience throughout their value chains through the Partnership for Resilience and Environmental Preparedness (PREP) as well as in Oxfam’s direct engagement with the food and beverage sector, and (2) influence companies in the food and beverage sector to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions in their agricultural supply chains.
  • As part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign, launched in 2014, assess the negative impacts of fossil fuel–based emissions (especially coal) on poor people and highlight alternative sustainable solutions to address energy poverty in developing countries. Some oppose efforts to shift from coal to cleaner technologies in developing countries on the grounds that making such a change can deny poor people access to affordable energy. However, Oxfam has found that burning more coal to generate more power may not benefit poor people because their villages are not linked to the grid. Oxfam is exploring alternatives including distributed energy generation from renewable sources.
  • Support advocacy in developing countries and engage civil society partners to influence policy and educate decision makers that adaptation programs are responsive to the needs of poor and vulnerable communities. Adaptation programs should not just focus on projects such as building sea walls, but should also aim at securing the right to food. In addition, Oxfam is helping engage civil society organizations to push governments to commit to meaningful climate actions in the lead-up to a post-2015 climate deal.
  • Influence development actors to enhance people’s adaptive capacities so that they are then better able to engage in and lead adaptation processes by (1) supporting endogenously led adaptation, through long-term sustained engagement of both customary and state institutions, (2) building cooperation and collaboration, (3) encouraging appropriate livelihood diversification, and (4) increasing women’s access to educational, political, and financial opportunities to reduce their vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Educate and inform US-based climate and development organizations about climate change issues of strategic importance internationally and about the importance of a development agenda in the context of climate policy and campaigning. Oxfam convenes and coordinates the efforts of environmental organizations and groups that work on development, creating synergies, enabling them to share expertise and perspectives and to solve problems holistically, and preventing them from working at cross-purposes. Oxfam explains how US policies affect developing countries and brings this information into the US policymaking process.

Achievements so far

Oxfam is a leading voice in the development community on the link between climate change and poverty. We have published at least 27 reports on issues of climate and development. These thematic and country reports highlight challenges developing countries and vulnerable communities face. Some offer policy recommendations while others explore key issues such as how to define resilience—a necessary step in finding ways to promote it. Our reports include the following:

Oxfam leads the Climate Development Working Group, consisting of approximately 30 organizations representing the environment, development, and religious communities, and engages this group in advocacy issues.

Oxfam influenced US leadership in negotiations culminating in the Copenhagen Accord, which included a $100 billion commitment to climate finance supporting developing countries beginning in 2020. Oxfam mobilized thousands of key voices in our last big climate change campaign to secure a fair global deal in Copenhagen, specifically engaging influential women and faith-based groups as well as Latino organizations.

We have also influenced critical pieces of US legislation that address climate change impacts in developing countries.

Oxfam’s advocacy helped to establish the Green Climate Fund under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to fund climate resilience programs in vulnerable communities. We helped persuade participants to create a fund with strong principles of equity and fairness at its core. The fund thus includes civil society participation on the board and at the country level, and has equal representation of developed and developing countries on the board, whereas other funds do not have this balanced representation.

Oxfam influenced the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Climate Change and Development Strategy. Our advocacy promoted a strategy that highlights the importance of climate for USAID programs and encourages effective implementation. We successfully urged USAID to prioritize country-owned strategies, stakeholder participation, and the integration of climate into other development streams.

Oxfam launched the Partnership for Resilience and Environmental Preparedness (PREP) in 2011 in partnership with leading companies across sectors. PREP promotes responsible business practices that help businesses and vulnerable communities adapt to climate change impacts. The businesses engage in policy discussions to promote strong adaptation and community resilience-building policies and programs. The companies and organizations in PREP include BSR, Calvert Investments, Ceres, Earth Networks, Entergy, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks, and Swiss Re. The partnership enables companies to share information and best practices on managing risks in supply chains. It also engages members in public policy work by helping them recognize the risks posed by climate change and the need for public policies that would reduce and help manage these risks. Our principal accomplishments include the following:


  • Brought together for the first time policymakers, donors, academics, and civil society partners for a National Climate Change Conference in 2009. The conference resulted in the creation of the Climate Change Forum–Ethiopia and increased the number of participants the country sends for the Conferences of the Parties (COP) negotiations. In addition, a series of large-scale climate hearings were held throughout Ethiopia to raise awareness and to give the community a platform to share the challenges of climate change as a contribution to the COP negotiations.
  • Supported key stakeholders to incorporate an understanding of climate change into national policymaking, including the Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy.


  • Supported MOCCIC—a civil society network on climate change that works to amplify the voices of vulnerable communities that are already suffering the impacts of climate change. Oxfam organized a series of climate hearings that brought vulnerable voices forward and engaged more than 5,000 people and government officials.
  • Contributed to the protection of the livelihoods of alpaca-dependent communities in the Andes by introducing small-scale sprinkler systems to increase quality and yield of grasses used for animal feed; we introduced new types of grasses to improve the nutrition of animals in times of drought or freeze; we built shelters for animals to protect them from climate events; and we implemented an early warning system that will register rainfall and temperature.


  • Began, through R4, pilot implementation for the 2013 agricultural season in 12 villages in the Koussanar communauté rurale (the smallest subregional administrative unit, consisting of a group of villages) covering 500 households—thus supporting 3,000 community members—to develop and deliver insurance and social safety nets, so that droughts don’t send these families further into debt and poverty.


  • Promoted our Farmer Led Agricultural Innovation for Resilience (FLAIR) program in Vietnam, so that as of 2013, more than one million rice farmers are applying the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) principles. SRI is a set of crop management practices that helps farmers optimize the use of their natural resources and reduce their use of external inputs and harmful chemicals without compromising yields. Another achievement of the program has been its success in leveraging support and resources from the government. Through advocacy work, SRI was also included in the National Target Program to respond to climate change.


  • Provided local information on weather factors, set up an early warning system (EWS) with Haiti’s national committee for food security (CNSA), and strengthened observatories.
  • Implemented awareness campaigns on the risks of climate change and on risk management through a network of schools in the communes of the Artibonite.
  • Piloted SRI to develop resilient farming systems and diversification of revenue streams for smallholder rice farmers, supported livestock production, and provided silos/storage for grains and other agricultural products.


  • Worked with the Ministry of Environment and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to carry out the first nationally representative survey of people’s perceptions of climate change and its impacts on their lives (from farmers to national government).
  • Supported a national network on climate change.

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