Climate change is already having severe impacts on human and natural systems alike. Along with temperature increases and changes in seasonal patterns, the most widely noticed impacts are often abrupt, such as extreme weather events and disasters such as typhoons.

However, many serious climate change impacts occur on long time scales – for instance, sea-level rise, desertification and loss of biodiversity. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) refers to changes that evolve incrementally over several years, or recurring events that become more frequent or intense, as “slow-onset events”.

This report focuses on the potential role of social protection mechanisms in building resilience to slow-onset climate change impacts, with special attention to how social protection can support transformation for resilience-building, adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Social protection generally aims to help the poorest and most vulnerable members of a society. It is also considered a key element of climate change action and DRR and plays a critical part in disaster recovery efforts. At the same time, the viability of social protection itself may be imperilled by climate change and disasters.

A coherent approach is thus needed to understand the interactions between compounding climate risks, social protection, poverty and inequality. More knowledge is also needed on how different social protection mechanisms can appropriately address different types of hazards with varying time scales and risks.

This report, an output of the project Critical Challenges of Coastal Southeast Asia (3CSeas), examines those issues and identifies principles to guide future research on social protection to build resilience to slow-onset events, focusing on coastal communities.