It’s time for another beach resort G20 summit – this time it’s Live from Los Cabos, Mexico. Only seven months ago, world leaders gathered in the beach resort town of Cannes, France. Now they’re back together again.
But the similarities between the French and Mexican summits don’t stop there. Just like in Cannes, the Los Cabos summit is at risk of being upstaged by political upheaval in Greece and by the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone. And also like last year’s G20 summit, the host government (Mexico) has put some important development – related topics on the agenda including food price volatility and climate change. The problem is, despite Mexico’s best efforts, it doesn’t look the G20 will take the bold action needed to protect the world’s most vulnerable from volatile food prices nor climate change.
A small ActionAid team is here to advocate with G20 leaders and get our messages out to leaders via the thousands of journalists parked in Los Cabos for the next two days. We’re focused on two issues: 1) how biofuels are fueling global food price volatility; and 2) the need for financing for the Green Climate Fund to help impoverished countries to adapt to climate change. We’re also pushing for governments to ensure that efforts to get the global economy moving aren’t enacted in ways (like cutting aid or development support) that hurt people living in poverty.
On Saturday, I represented ActionAid at a dialogue between the Mexican government and NGOs on the eve of the summit. The Mexican Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, and Foreign Affairs all showed up and discussed the Mexican government’s efforts to reach out to civil society around the G20 summit and key issues on the agenda.
A colleague from Oxfam France managed to ask Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa about the link between biofuels and hunger and whether the G20 would take action to address how biofuels are fueling hunger (check out ActionAid USA’s and ActionAid UK’s recent reports on this topic).
Secretary Espinosa said there is no consensus within the G20 on biofuels and so there will not likely be strong action taken at the summit. But she added,
We have to proceed with caution, we have to be very careful because of the links between biofuels and food price volatility. Use of biofuels which comes from grains and foodstuffs…is quicksand.
It’s a strong statement from a government that knows firsthand the impacts of biofuels on hunger. ActionAid USA’s recent report found that rising corn ethanol production in the United States, fueled by a deadly cocktail of subsidies, mandates, and rising oil prices, has increased Mexico’s food import bill. As a result, Mexican food prices are soaring. Between 2005 and 2011, tortilla prices increased by nearly 70 percent. Since 2005, US ethanol expansion has cost Mexico up to $500 million per year in higher corn prices.
We’ll be monitoring developments closely here in the coming days and reacting as news and the communiqué comes out. Stay tuned! Here’s hoping that this summit is more than just another beach resort talk shop and that leaders can find their way out of the policy quicksand.