PHE Blog 3

Five Actions to Help Build Equitable Climate Resilience

The climate crisis demands nuanced, holistic, and equitable solutions that integrate approaches at the nexus of population, health, and gender, firmly grounded in local knowledge and needs. 

Lire en français: Cinq actions pour aider à construire une résilience climatique équitable

In the previous installments of this series, we called for a revitalized vision of the population, health, and environment (PHE) approach to better respond to the climate crisis, and introduced the three pillars of our proposed framework. We believe that people-centered, equitable, and locally led PHE investments can help communities adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change while also advancing development goals. In this blog, we propose actions to advance this framework. These actions are relevant across implementation contexts, but PHE investments should ultimately be driven by and adapted to local challenges, priorities, and expertise.

The climate crisis gives us an opportunity to break down systems that have eroded equity and sustainability and remake them with an emphasis on well-being for both people and the planet. A people-centered framework acknowledges that the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed, with historically marginalized groups often bearing the brunt. Both national and subnational climate initiatives at the intersection of population, gender, health, and the environment should prioritize the needs of local communities and advance holistic solutions by doing the following:


Integrate climate adaptation and demographic strategies to advance resilient, equitable development

  • Ensure alignment across national population and demographic policies (such as demographic dividend roadmaps), family planning and reproductive health commitments, climate adaptation planning (such as National Adaptation Plans [NAPs]), and national economic growth strategies. This integration ensures that these areas will be financed via budget allocations.
  • Strengthen capacity for integrating climate action in development planning, especially at subnational and local levels, such as improving local government development planning rubrics to include cross-cutting climate investment recommendations. Support local actors to develop plans using participatory planning approaches that respond to community priorities and context-specific climate risks.
  • Create a climate finance budget line in national and subnational development budgets and strengthen mechanisms for allocating and disbursing climate financing to subnational and local levels.
  • Use population data to systematically identify barriers and inform responsive policies to advance equitable, gender transformative resilience, including expanding land tenure rights for women, ensuring girls can complete their education, and advancing the voices of women in climate leadership.
  • Build a wider coalition of actors invested in gender transformative, equitable development, including actors across environment, agriculture, health care, and the private sector.


Climate-proof essential systems.

  • Invest in interventions that make essential systems such as health care and education resilient and nimble, even in times of crisis, through innovations around self-care, mobile service delivery, public-private partnerships, and alternative financing mechanisms.
  • Advance understanding of context-specific climate mobility trends, particularly in dense urban centers, to ensure health systems can respond to rapid population changes.
  • Strengthen existing disaster risk reduction and early warning systems to incorporate gender-specific risks and impacts.
  • Invest in climate-smart agricultural practices, sustainable land and water management practices, and agricultural climate disaster insurance schemes.
  • Guide effective investments by working with research universities to build the body of evidence on the health effects of climate change.


Make strategic investments that strengthen individual agency and choice.

  • Invest in proven interventions that support greater choice for women and girls, including access to family planning and reproductive health services, education, and economic empowerment (including land tenure law, leadership opportunities, and entrepreneurship funds).
  • Ensure national and subnational climate adaptation plans address the gendered impacts of climate change, and ensure women and youth are prioritized in adaptation strategies, including through social protection programs that address the disproportionate care burden and violence risk women and girls experience, especially during crises
  • Support land policy reform, with a focus on land tenure rights for women, including promoting a policy agenda toward land consolidation and increased collective action through women farmer’s cooperatives.


Prioritize locally led problem-solving and accountability

  • Improve the documentation and integration of traditional and indigenous knowledge in locally devised solutions for adaptation planning.
  • Incorporate subnational adaptation strategies and local basic social services needs, such as health and education, into decentralized government budgets to adequately fund priority actions.
  • Design citizen engagement plans (CEPs) and invest in strengthening the capacity of local civil society organizations and women’s and indigenous rights groups to hold decisionmakers accountable for their commitments around climate adaptation.


Integrate demographic and health data for climate adaptation and disaster risk planning across sectors.

  • Integrate climate change adaptation indicators into national statistics to promote evidence-based adaptation strategies at national and subnational levels.
  • Invest in the skills of decisionmakers across sectors―including natural resource management and land use, conservation, transportation, agriculture, sanitation, health, and education―to analyze and use demographic data (including gender-disaggregated data) to create climate adaptation plans that address the diverse needs of different segments of the population.
  • Undertake vulnerability mapping to provide targeted, context-specific, gender-sensitive adaptation and disaster risk planning.
  • Identify demographic, social, gender, and cultural factors that increase the risk of transmission of zoonotic disease, including destruction of natural habitats and interaction between people and wildlife in areas with high levels of environmental degradation.

In outlining three pillars for our vision of climate resilience, and specifying the actions that can make this possible, we hope to foster discussion on the promise and potential of new horizons for the PHE approach. While these recommendations are drawn from the experiences of PRB and our partners around the world, local actors should adapt them to their specific contexts and individual priorities as appropriate.

As applied to date, multisectoral approaches such as PHE have successfully highlighted the importance of understanding the complex ways in which human health, well-being, and population dynamics shape the environment, and vice versa. The emphasis on access to family planning has elevated the role of women’s health and rights as underpinning economic security, gender equity, and sustainable development.

As we face the coming decades under the existential threat of the climate crisis and growing global inequality, we must take this approach further. In holistically reducing barriers to equity, especially for women and youth, and drawing on the full potential of demographic data to understand complex interactions between people and nature, we can build more resilient, adaptable communities. Strengthening equity and placing people at the center of climate adaptation solutions is the path we must take to ensure a brighter, more resilient future for all.