Food & drink industry must heat up EU debate on climate change

by Lies Craeynest, Oxfam’s EU climate expert

It is a well-known fact that one of the industries most vulnerable to climate change is the food industry. Their long global supply chains – sourcing mainly from developing countries – as well as their dependency on agriculture make them particularly exposed to the impacts of extreme weather and changing weather patterns. It is with a heavy dose of irony therefore that the world’s top ten largest food companies combined greenhouse gas emissions would make them the world’s twenty-fifth most polluting country. This comes at a time when rising temperatures and unpredictable weather are set to see agricultural yields decrease two per cent each decade whilst demand for food will rise fourteen per cent every ten years, pushing up to fifty million more people into hunger by 2050.

The revelations made by Oxfam’s new report, Standing on the Sidelines, should send a clear message to the “Big 10”; excess emissions is not just bad for the planet, but bad for business too. All ten companies must therefore make clear stances in favor of quick, effective climate action. Beyond cutting their own emissions, they should also stand up for better climate policies, as Unilever is in the process of doing, by dissociating itself from business groups, such as BUSINESSEUROPE, which aim to slow down progress on climate action.

The food and drink industry must also send a strong message to the EU that they support a strong target in the EU2030 Package on Energy & Climate Change. This must include at minimum a 55% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels and ambitious targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as a reduction in Europe’s reliance on ‘old’ industries such as oil and gas.

Made up of household names including Coca-Cola, Kellogg and Mars, these global companies must do more to access the reality of the situation: by faltering on their responsibilities to the planet, they are entering a self-defeating, unsustainable cycle. The “Big 10” together emit 263.7 million tons of GHGs – more than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway together. Around half of these emissions come from the production of agricultural materials from their supply chains, but these emissions are not covered by the reduction targets the companies have set, even though they constitute the majority of the gases they emit.

This lacklustre effort in tackling climate change comes as even more of a shock when several of the “Big 10” companies have admitted themselves that climate change is already beginning to harm them financially. Unilever has stated it now loses $415 million a year, while General Mills reported losing 62 days of production in the first fiscal quarter of 2014 due to extreme weather conditions widely attributed to climate change. Oxfam predicts that the price of key products like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and General Mills’ Kix cereal could dramatically increase by 44% in the next 15 years because of climate change.

If all companies were to commit to reducing carbon emissions by 50% from business as usual, as PepsiCo UK recently announced, a significant reduction of 80 million tonnes in greenhouse gases could be achieved. Ambitious targets mixed with transparency and fully accessible data will help send a strong message not just to governments, but other industries deemed vulnerable to climate change.

Scorecards: then and now

February, 2013

February, 2014

European overseas aid slightly increases but lags behind global trend

By Natalia Alonso, Oxfam’s EU Head of Office

Bwalia 'Bottom' Hospital in Lilongwe by Abbie Trayler-Smith

The latest figures from the OECD seem promising but hide an uncomfortable truth. Donors have collectively increased their development aid spending, but most of Europe’s wealthiest governments still fail to meet promises designed to alleviate global poverty and slash economic inequality.

Overall, the EU-19 contribution to overseas aid has increased a little and some countries like the UK and Sweden have increased their contributions. However, a closer look at some of Europe’s wealthiest countries proves worrying. Key donors like France (-9.8%), Netherlands (-6.2%), Belgium (-6.1%) and Portugal (-20.4%) have slashed aid and spurned their own development pledges.

It is this slowdown by key countries which has led to Western Europe performing slightly worse than the global trend. The EU-19 delivered €51.3 billion or 0.42% of their national income as overseas aid in 2013, which reveals a €42 billion funding gap to meet their 0.7% target by 2015. This long-standing commitment lies at the heart of the UN flagship Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set to expire next year.

Slashing aid has a real human cost leading to fewer teachers and nurses in the world’s poorest countries. European aid saves lives every year and is irreplaceable.

The irreplaceable nature of aid is seen when we look at the European Commission’s aid spending in 2012. The budget totalled €13 billion, representing an important share of government revenue in poor countries including 23% in Sierra Leone, 22% in Comoros, 19% in Burundi, 18% in Malawi, 13% in Madagascar and 12% in Togo.

It is vital that European countries continue to support robust aid projects, refusing to replace it with alternative methods of finance with the developing world. Unlike aid, other sources of development finance like foreign direct investment or loans are not designed to get people out of poverty. Aid is designated to help poor countries raise their own resources for basic services like health and education by helping strengthen their tax systems.

Against the backdrop of broken aid promises by some of the Europe’s richest countries, innovative ways to raise money for development are absolutely crucial. The 11 EU countries who agreed to implement a financial transaction tax (FTT) this year must spend part of the revenues to help fight poverty and climate change. Europe can also crackdown on tax dodging which drains $950 billion out of poor countries every year.

The staggering cost of armed violence to Africa

By Martin Butcher is Oxfam’s Policy Advisor on Conflict and Arms

As the fourth EU-Africa summit takes place in Brussels, we note that the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace” reflects exactly Africa’s needs, and emphasizes Oxfam’s concerns about armed violence and conflict in Africa which are at the base of the decade-long campaign for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to curb the irresponsible arms trade.

Oxfam research that was published in our report Africa’s Missing Billions showed that between 1990 and 2007 the cost of armed violence and conflict to Africa was $300 billion – approximately the same as the aid money that flowed into the continent during that time. Losses continue at around $18 billion a year. Conflict shrinks the economies of affected African countries by at least 15% a year.

This is a tremendous sum of money, enough to solve the continents’ problems of HIV and AIDS, or to address Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria.

There are the obvious direct costs of armed violence – medical costs, military expenditure, the destruction of infrastructure, and the care for displaced people – which divert money from more productive uses. The indirect costs are even higher. Economic activity falters or grinds to a halt. Income from valuable natural resources ends up lining individual pockets. Conflict brings inflation, debt, and reduced investment, while people suffer from unemployment, lack of public services, and trauma. Inequality rises, bringing further social problems in its wake. Compared to peaceful countries, African countries in conflict have, on average:

• 50 per cent more infant deaths;

• 15 per cent more undernourished people;

• Life expectancy reduced by five years;

• 20 per cent more adult illiteracy;

• 2.5 times fewer doctors per patient; and

• 12.4 per cent less food per person.

Serious armed violence, and particularly civil war, also erodes the institutions of civil society. Family, community, and inter-community links are severed, and a culture of violence spreads. In one current example, Oxfam staff in the Central African Republic observed children in Bangui earning money for their family by selling hand grenades for the equivalent of 50 cents each.

At least 95 per cent of Africa’s most commonly used conflict weapons come from outside the continent, for example, the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, few of which are made in Africa. In the Central African Republic, Seleka rebels were armed with weapons trafficked from elsewhere in Africa. Anti-balaka militias are armed with home-made arms and older military weapons. One thing is clear – none of the arms were manufactured in the Central African Republic. And few entered the country legally.

A steady supply of ammunition is required to keep arms deadly, but little military ammunition is manufactured in Africa. A 2012 report showed that ammunition shipped by Iran was used in 14 African countries, though it was used by government forces in only four of these cases. The ammunition was supplied to governments who then sold it on illicitly, fuelling rebellions, civil wars, armed conflict, and criminal and inter-communal violence.

Africa desperately needs to stop the flow of arms. Our main tool for change will be the ATT adopted by overwhelming vote at the UN last year. The ATT provides for the first time a global framework to control to restrict the irresponsible trade in arms, and to subject the arms trade to control under provisions of IHL and human rights law.

To make the Treaty work mechanisms to control the import and export of arms must be established and made to work effectively. Stockpiles must be secure, and corruption addressed. Many African countries will need assistance with this, something the EU has already committed to provide. But it is not enough for the EU to say that their arms controls are perfect, that only Africa needs to act. Arms exports must be effectively implemented observing the spirit and the letter of the new Treaty.

The EU has a strong interest in peace, stability and economic growth in Africa. Africans and Europeans need to act together in partnership to achieve this vital goal.

Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels rss

Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels works to ensure EU policies and practices affecting poor countries have a greater impact on those most in need. Our work spans numerous policy areas including development aid, food security, climate change, and the provision of humanitarian assistance to victims of conflicts and natural disasters. more.

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