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Marrakech climate change conference failed to address small farmers’ needs

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (Nov 7 - 18) in Marrakech failed to address the needs of small farmers, says a representative from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

“There are a lot of politics around financing and mitigating,” said Genevieve Talbot, advocacy officer for Development and Peace, in an email interview from Marrakech. Developing countries, including China, were not willing to negotiate on anything regarding the mitigation of climate change through reducing emissions unless Canada, the United States, the EU, Australia and New Zealand increase their funding to help countries adapt to climate change, she said

“These kinds of political games have stalled negotiations on agriculture, for example, where an agreement could not be reached on what can be done,” she said. “And this is really worrisome, since agriculture is greatly impacted by climate change and developing countries need support, i.e. funding, to be able to adapt their agriculture to be able to survive.”

“Agriculture can play an important role in mitigation, (reduction of emissions) so we were hoping the G77 (Group of 77, a coalition of development nations) would agree to a compromise but unfortunately not,” she said.

“We have to admit that developed countries are pushing for agriculture that is more in line with agro-business as a mitigation approach, which would kill local agriculture and small-scale family production in the Global South,” she said. “So the decision was to postpone the negotiations until the inter-session in Bonn in May 2017.”

On Nov. 16 Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $1.8 billion in funding “to mobilize private-sector support for developing countries’ efforts to transition to cleaner, more sustainable economies.”

The funds will “leverage private-sector investments in areas such as clean technology, climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forestry, and climate-resilient infrastructure,” the government release said. “Canada will deliver this support through a range of trusted partners, including multilateral development banks, with demonstrated expertise in innovative finance solutions to address climate change.”

Talbot said there is not much information on how the $1.8 billion will be spent, though a stress on “clean innovation” might skew the balance between mitigation and adaption, “especially after you factor in leveraging from the private sector.”

The money was part of Canada’s previous $2.65 billion pledge to help countries “pollute less, be better equipped to resist the effects of climate change, and make a positive contribution to the global clean economy,” according to the news release.

Talbot said Development and Peace’s current ecological justice campaign is asking the Canadian government to devote half of its $2.65 billion pledge to adaption projects that would help small farmers by “defending safe access to land for small family farmers; supporting agricultural practices that are good for the land such as agroecology; and ensuring farmers have a voice in political decisions that affect them.”

“What we would like to see is investment in climate resilient agricultural projects,” she said. “To be efficient, these funds must be disbursed through flexible financial mechanisms, not only through large multilateral platforms or banks.”

“Working with NGOs and other civil society organizations would definitely contribute to making sure that this funding is reaching communities and having a real impact on the day-to-day life of the most vulnerable people,” she said.

Development and Peace and its partners could offer expertise in addressing climate resilient agriculture, Talbot said. “We could, for example, support the recovery of Haiti through that kind of funding.”

“We could launch a project that would contribute to rebuilding the peasant economy and peasant agriculture in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew,” she said. “Most of our partners are already working on agriculture-related projects, for example, in Burundi, Paraguay and Indonesia, so it could also help to maintain projects that are contributing to the capacity of small family farmers to feed their families and their communities, as well as to increasing the capacity of soil to absorb CO2 emissions, which would reduce the amount GHG emissions that are usually produced by the agricultural sector.

On Nov. 19, Bibeau announced $54 million to support humanitarian and development projects in Haiti, that includes $2.65 million for humanitarian assistance, $1.4 million to support the election, and $50 million toward projects to strengthen agriculture.

“The damage caused by Hurricane Matthew severely affected Haiti’s local food resources, including fishing and agriculture,” a government news release said. “Canada has been one of the top donors in responding to the effects of the hurricane. Today’s additional humanitarian assistance funding will help provide emergency food assistance and respond to the agricultural needs of the most vulnerable.”

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