Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

by Lies Craeynest, Oxfam EU’s climate change expert

Climate change is the biggest threat to our chances of winning the fight against hunger. As governments gather in Japan to agree a major new scientific report, which is expected to highlight the grave dangers climate change presents to food production, a new report from Oxfam demonstrates how the world is woefully underprepared for it for the impacts.

Worryingly, the impacts of climate change on food are likely to be far more serious and hit much sooner than previously thought. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fifth Assessment Report, due to be published on 31 March, is expected to warn that climate change will lead to declines in global agricultural yields of up to 2 per cent each decade at the same time as demand for food increases by 14 per cent per decade.

Hunger is not inevitable. If the EU wants to play a serious role in eradicating hunger in the next decade, it should start with taking a pioneering stance in the fight against climate change. We will only have a chance to stop the worst climate impacts on hunger if the EU steps up its global leadership ahead of the climate negotiations in Paris next year. That means agreeing as soon as possible to cut greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030, as part of the EU’s new climate and energy package. Anything less does not give us enough of a chance to keep global warming below the dangerous 2 degree limit and will not give a strong enough signal to governments and business across the world that climate change needs to be tackled and that it can be done.

Food production is already being hit in Europe. In the UK earlier this year over 5,000 properties and thousands of hectares of farmland were submerged beneath floodwaters. Meanwhile, the 2003 heat wave saw EU countries lose more than €13 billion worth of produce as crops were unable to grow. If the impacts on domestic production weren’t serious enough, Europe also imports more than 70% of its food from developing countries, many of which are at great risk of climate impacts.

Oxfam’s new briefing paper, ‘Hot and Hungry: How to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger’ analyses ten key factors that will have an increasingly important influence on countries’ ability to feed their people in a warming world. Across all ten areas, Oxfam found serious gaps between what governments are doing and what they need to do to protect our food systems.

The ten gaps, “failing” policy areas that will undermine the world’s ability to feed itself in a warming world, are depicted below:

Without urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts will become more serious. It is estimated there could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of five in 2050 compared to a world without climate change – that’s the equivalent of all under-fives in the US and Canada combined.

Oxfam is calling on governments and business across the world to act now to stop climate change making people hungry by building communities’ resilience to hunger and climate change, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and securing international agreements to tackle climate and hunger.

Individuals can join the global campaign to stop climate hunger at www.oxfam.org/foodclimatejustice

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