Most Fairtrade farmers and workers in Africa will not have been able to follow Prime Minister Johnson and President Biden’s Cornish beach holiday very closely – they will have been at work in the fields growing food for supermarkets in the UK and USA. But the decisions – or lack of them – on questions such as the climate crisis, on COVID-19, and on trade matter deeply to them. How many marks out of ten do they get from a farmer’s point of view?
The G7 communiqué agreed by the world’s richest countries in Cornwall in June contained a number of pledges and promises on climate change, but ultimately only two nations offered firm promises of more climate funding. To the Fairtrade farmers and workers already on the frontline against climate change, these warm words are not enough – they need proper support now.
Cutting the carbon
The G7 committed to net zero no later than 2050, halving their ‘collective emissions over the two decades to 2030.’ This is welcome of course – the G7 must step up, as on their own they contribute 20% of global emissions. But what is still missing is a recognition that the emissions coming from products imported into G7 countries need to be accounted for. The G7 cannot simply outsource their emissions and leave it at that – no, they need to own up to and act on their “imported carbon”.
What does this mean in practice? G7 countries are the biggest consumers of the things Fairtrade producers grow, from cocoa to tea, so these farmers need support to pay for the cost of adapting to climate change, and shifting to more sustainable methods of farming and production.
Footing the bill
But there was very little from the G7 for the world’s poorest farmers and workers. Yes, there was a pledge to jointly mobilise $100 billion per year from public and private sources. But this promise has been made before. Only Canada (who will double their funding to $4.4 billion over 5 years) and Germany (who will increase their spending to $7.26 billion a year by 2025) made new commitments.
The announcement that the G7 will launch a green global infrastructure plan sounded useful – but again there was no detail on how it would be financed. It is no good writing cheques that cannot be cashed in.
As a former British Prime Minister has pointed out, one option open to G7 members was to agree to use $100bn of new international money (so-called special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund’s reserves) to help low-income countries as climate finance. Given that this will not cost G7 treasuries a cent, it is hard to understand why they did not agree to this. The same could also be said for the commitment to phase out subsidies for international carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy as soon as possible – why not redirect the money saved into new climate finance instead?
Will finance reach farmers?
From Fairtrade Africa’s point of view, where any new money goes is just as important as the amounts. The big finance commitments will go to governments in the first instance – so how can we be sure it will actually reach the people who need it, like Fairtrade farmers? It was good to see the G7 state that finance should support adaptation and resilience, disaster risk and insurance, as well as support for nature and nature-based solutions. But this must genuinely reach farmers and their communities.
Similarly, plans to protect 30% of our land and sea must include local and indigenous people in any decision making about the future of their communities.
What about trade?
The G7 promised to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour and have instructed G7 Trade Ministers to identify how it can be eradicated ahead of their October meeting. We welcome that of course, but they must ensure trade unions and civil society are included in that process so we can share our knowledge from communities and make sure that plans will be designed with the needs of farmers and workers in mind, rather than the needs of big business alone.
It was a disappointing surprise not to see much from the G7 on trade and climate. Because of the huge amount of carbon involved in producing and transporting goods around the world, it is really important that trade policy works as hard as it can to reduce the carbon emissions arising from trade and promote low carbon production. Definitely a case of “must try harder”. Fairtrade Africa is calling on businesses, within their own supply chains, to help farmers and workers afford the costs of adapting to climate change and decarbonising production by paying higher prices for the produce they buy, and we need government to set trade rules which will help drive this along.
Finally but perhaps most telling of all, we share the dismay that the G7 failed to agree a comprehensive plan to tackle COVID-19 and vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable. The farmers and workers we work with are often living in communities with weak or non-existent healthcare systems, which vaccination programmes have barely reached. While they wait, their lives are at risk from COVID’s devastating consequences.
Must try harder
So the G7 scorecard doesn’t look great. Yes, there were some pledges and promises, but the risk is that they are soon washed away like sandcastles on that Cornish beach. Fairtrade farmers need more, and there is still time to see progress this year. The COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later this year can be a success, but G7 members need to start getting out their chequebooks – for the sake of our Fairtrade farmers, and for us all.
By Mary Kinyua, Board Chair of Fairtrade Africa, and COP26 Civil Society & Youth Advisory Council Member, and Kate Nkatha, Commercial Director for Fairtrade Africa.
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