The need to address both poverty and vulnerability to climate change can be considered two of the major challenges facing human society in the 21st century. While the two concepts are closely interconnected, they are nonetheless distinct. A conceptual understanding of the relationship between vulnerability and poverty is presented, and the types of responses that can address both of these challenges are identified. An empirical example from Kenya is used to show how climate change adaptation can potentially reconcile the objectives of both poverty reduction and vulnerability reduction. Significantly, each and every poverty reduction measure does not reduce vulnerability to climate change, just as each and every adaptation measure does not automatically contribute to poverty reduction. It is argued that adaptation measures need to specifically target vulnerability–poverty linkages. Although most adaptation efforts have been focused on reducing risk, there is a need to address local capacity to adapt, as well as the societal processes generating vulnerability. An implication is that the mode of implementing adaptation measures must capture the specificity of both the vulnerability and poverty context. Furthermore, adaptation is not simply a local activity, since targeting the processes generating vulnerability and poverty often entails addressing political and economic structures.
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