Climate change threatens to undo years of work to tackle poverty in developing countries, a report warned today.
The study by Forum for the Future and supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) said strong, urgent action was needed in poor countries to address the impacts of climate change alongside efforts to boost economic development.
The report said international aid should not be blind to climate change, ignore measures which help poor countries adapt to its effects, or continue to promote high-carbon development.
Instead governments and aid agencies should put climate change at the forefront of work to tackle poverty, to help developing nations deal with its impacts and seize new opportunities as the world shifts to a more low-carbon economy.
The Future Climate for Development study said low-income countries and those working in development should look for "win-win" opportunities which simultaneously address climate change and issues such as poverty, health and education.
For example, investment in renewable energy could enhance energy security in poor countries, while promoting low-carbon transport would reduce pollution and improve health.
The study looked at four scenarios for how climate change would transform low-income countries over the next 20 years, with potentially dramatic impacts on societies and economies.
The potential consequences could include developing countries questioning Western models of democracy in the face of the impacts of climate change and food and resources shortages, and for currently unacceptable population controls to be brought in as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
And conflicts over water and scarce resources could escalate and come to dominate international relations, the report said.
Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, said: "Climate change and development should be seen as complementary, not competing issues.
"By putting climate change at the forefront of development thinking we will not only help the world's poorest to avoid serious risks, but we can also help them seize new opportunities to create better lives for themselves.
"Development aid should be much more climate resilient."
Stephen O'Brien, International Development Minister, said: "Without urgent action, climate change threatens to undo years of work tackling poverty in the developing world.
"That is why the UK is now working across the globe to help the world's poorest people prepare for the potentially devastating effects of climate change and shift to the clean technologies that are so vital to a stable, successful world for us all.
"This report will act as an important tool to help poor countries plan for an uncertain future, and underlines our need to build climate change into everything we do."