The actions that will be taken at the UN climate talks in Durban South Africa over the next 10 days could define the future of rural people across the African continent. Business-as-usual could push millions more people into hunger and poverty.
Over 1 billion people are already on the verge of a climate-driven food crisis, and unless this is tackled, global warming could put an extra 50 million people at risk of hunger by 2020. If courageous steps can be taken by rich countries in agreeing a just and binding global climate deal the worst impacts of climate change can still be averted.
Sadly, the climate negotiations started with Canada (my country!) setting the bar at rock bottom when they announced that they are pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. This sets an extremely bad precedent at the talks. The Kyoto Protocol is a 14-year old promise made by rich nations to slash their carbon emissions in order to avert global warming and climate chaos by 2012. It is the world’s only legally binding treaty on climate change, with targets and timelines - and it is critical that we push for an extension or ‘round 2’ of the protocol. If rich nations do not deliver on this promise, the death of the Kyoto Protocol could leave a wound so deep in the negotiations, it’s unlikely a climate agreement can be struck.
In Durban, just down the road from where I live, it’s becoming clear that what is at stake is averting the death of the Kyoto Protocol.
If they are serious about tackling climate change, rich nations should agree to a second commitment period in addition to a broader, more comprehensive climate agreement.
As rich nations are historically responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, they also have a historical climate ‘debt’ to tackle climate change. ActionAid will be pushing to ensure that they are committing climate finance by pointing to the devastating impact climate change will have on poor people. The conference must also push ahead with a "Green Climate Fund" to channel up to $100bn a year by 2020 to countries exposed to drought, flood, storms and rising seas, which scientists forecast will worsen this century.
The US in particular must stop its bullying and stalling tactics around the Green Fund and allow negotiators at the climate talks in Durban to deliver on their $100billion a year commitment to fund the fund.
For now, its coffers are empty because of the global financial crisis, which is why ActionAid is also pushing for alternative sources of finance. We know that times are tough and budgets are tight, but new and innovative sources of financing like a small tax on the transactions of banks or a tax on shipping / aviation could raise billions.
Finally, ActionAid is also pointing out that industrialised nations must stop promoting “false solutions” to climate change, such as biofuels and the trading of soil carbon in financial markets – the main beneficiaries of which appear to be governments and companies in North America and Europe. Rich countries, along with the World Bank, are promoting soil carbon sequestration as one of the key ways to offset their emissions. Soil carbon sequestration is the process of transferring carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the soil through crop residues and other organic materials. Markets are being established to trade credits earned through soil-based sequestration of carbon. But instead of transforming the industrial-style agriculture practiced in rich countries to a more responsible model, they are trying to create incentives for farmers in poor countries to do the work for them. ActionAid is concerned that without critical examination of the potential impacts of soil carbon markets on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of smallholders, we could be stumbling blindly into “false solutions” that will raise false hopes among both African farmers and governments.
Rich countries must meet their commitments and increase efforts to tackle climate change. They must set out detailed plans to provide new and additional public financing for climate adaptation that truly meet the needs of communities in developing countries. If we are to eradicate hunger, this funding must support poor communities, including smallholder farmers. Climate cash is urgently needed by millions of peasant farmers across the globe to protect their dwindling harvests. Climate change is already hitting food production and, as the East Africa drought shows, things could get much worse.
The majority of those affected will be smallholder farmers. Due to the impact of climate change, crop yields from rain-fed agriculture in some African countries are estimated to fall by up to 50% by 2020.
ActionAid is working with our partners to pile on the pressure for developing countries and to voice citizen outrage at the rich nations as climate laggards. We have been supporting the Pan-African Climate Alliance ‘Caravan of Hope’ and today we are launching a 500 strong African Women’s Rural Assembly to put pressure on African leaders to stay strong in getting a good deal for Arica and stopping rich countries’ dirty negotiation tactics. Rich countries have purposefully kept expectations low for the climate summit and only through purposeful and dedicated action by the citizens and social movements will there be any real and concrete actions.
We have to make sure we force rich countries to take action because there is no planet B.