Canada must commit its fair share of climate finance to help the world’s must vulnerable

Thursday, January 17, 2019
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Agness Manamba and Imelda Simon show how they have prepared their land using conservation agriculture, training to help them adapt to a changing climate.

The world’s poorest one billion people absorb 80 per cent of climate change impacts, despite being responsible for only three per cent of global greenhouse emissions.

This article originally appeared in The Hill Times.

When I met Agness Mamamba and Imelda Simon in their adjoining fields in Tanzania, they told me of the erratic rainfall affecting their crops. Now middle-aged, these women have been farming since they were children. They have noticed that rains today are coming later and are no longer consistent throughout the season. Instead heavy rains inundate their fields, then are followed by periods of drought, forcing them to purchase more seeds and replant their crops.

In developing countries, according to the Center for Global Development, the world’s poorest one billion people absorb 80 per cent of climate change impacts, despite being responsible for only three per cent of global greenhouse emissions. Mamamba and Simon can no longer rely on traditional knowledge to determine when to plant and harvest their crops.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that climate variability and extremes are one of the leading causes of rising rates of global hunger. And a recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that even an additional half a degree of warming will have significant impacts on human and natural systems. This includes increased occurrences of drought and heavy precipitation leading to flooding—two situations that many farmers in Canada and abroad are becoming increasingly familiar with.

According to the Prairie Climate Centre, farmers across the prairies can expect more flooding, droughts, forest fires, and extreme storm events in the coming years due to climate change.

Many Canadian farmers are adopting innovative technologies and sustainable practices to more efficiently manage resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, optimizing environmental and economic benefits.

Farmers in Tanzania and other developing countries can likewise be part of the solution. With support from Canada, Mamamba and Simon were trained in conservation agriculture, a farming approach that uses minimal soil disturbance, crop rotations, mulching, and cover crops to improve soil health, increase production, and make optimal use of limited and erratic rainfall.
They can now rely on their farms to feed their families and send their children to school.

But few small-scale women farmers in developing countries have the opportunities that Mamamba and Simon had. Most have little access to the resources that could help them adapt; resources like finance, crop insurance, training, land ownership and agency in decision-making. This makes them exceptionally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They deserve the opportunity to adapt and thrive as food producers. Canada, along with other developed nations, has an opportunity to help them.

In early December, Canada joined the rest of the world at COP24, the annual conference for global action on climate change. Canada acknowledged the science pointing to the urgency for climate action but failed to match this with an ambitious plan to get us there. Canada made a commitment that will help developing countries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels but made no indication of increased support for much-needed adaptation efforts.

There is more to be done. Canada should commit to contributing its fair share of climate finance that reaches those most vulnerable with new and additional funding in the form of grants.

Increased ambition should include a commitment to allocate at least half of our international climate finance to adaptation which reaches the people who need it the most, like Mamamba and Simon. As climate finance is counted as Canada’s official development assistance, Canada’s aid levels should increase correspondingly.

With Canada’s support, more farmers can be part of the climate change solution.

Naomi Johnson, Senior Policy Advisor, Canadian Foodgrains Bank

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