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COPROFAM is part of a new alliance of family farmers, representing 35 million producers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, who are demanding urgent action from leaders at COP28 for direct access to more climate finance to make the food system climate-resilient to climate change. 

The recent heatwave that ravaged Brazil, where I’m from, is just another example of how the climate crisis destroys harvests, drives hunger and decimates farmers’ livelihoods. Extreme weather events such as these have focused minds on the need for adaptation efforts to create more resilient and sustainable food systems which can feed the planet in a changing climate. 

Food is finally on the menu of COP28 and today is the dedicated Food Day within the official agenda. This is progress.  But if governments are serious about transforming the food system they have to ensure that the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), a key potential outcome of COP28, delivers for food and farming. 

The GGA is a framework which will guide adaptation and investment plans over the coming decades and has the potential to unlock finance and policy changes.  All too often small-scale producers are sidelined by decision makers and neglected by funders. New research by our alliance shows that we receive just 0.3% of international climate finance. For COP28 to be a success on adaptation, governments must put food and small-scale producers at the heart of adaptation plans. Here’s 4 reasons why: 

  • Family farmers are critical to food security in a changing climate 

Small-scale farmers produce over a third of the world’s food. In Brazil, where I’m from, 70% of the food that is served on the tables in Brazilian homes comes from small-scale producers. For key staple crops like beans and milk, family farmers are responsible for 70% and 60% of national production respectively. 

  1. Family farmers are the backbone of rural economies

Family farming is a key source of employment and income, with over 2.5 billion people across the world depending on the sector for their livelihoods. 

  1. Family farmers play a central role in global supply chains

Small scale farms in developing countries account for more than half of the global production of nine staple crops – beans, maize, rice, peanut, cassava, millet, wheat, potato, barley and rye, and grow almost three-quarters of the coffee and 90% of the cocoa. 

  1. Family farmers are key to climate adaptation 

Family farmers are already practising climate-resilient agriculture which promotes diversity – growing a wider variety of local crops, mixing crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries, reducing chemical inputs, and building strong connections to local markets. These practices, which include approaches like agroecology, prioritise the use of traditional crops and knowledge and can enhance biodiversity.  

Often family farmers are seen as victims of the climate crisis. We are all too familiar with the realities of farming in increasingly extreme and erratic weather, and the risks this brings to our families’ livelihoods as well as food security and rural prosperity. 

But as these four stark facts highlight, this isn’t about charity –  we are critical partners in the climate fight and nowhere is our role more important than adaptation efforts. Governments need to ensure that the GGA includes ambitious, time-bound and measurable targets for food systems so that:  

  • Climate finance to sustainable climate-resilient practices is increased
    – including agroecological approaches. This means funds to support diverse, nature friendly approaches and to create community-based solutions that build on traditional expertise and experience. 
  • Small-scale family farmers have direct access to more climate finance. Financing mechanisms and funds should be developed with farmers’ organisations in
    order to meet farmers’ needs and to ensure longer-term, flexible funding so that communities can determine their own priorities. 
  • Small-scale family farmers’ are given a real say in decision-making on food and climate at the local, national, regional and international level. 

The real test of COP28 will be if the warm words on food systems we heard at the start of the summit are turned into concrete commitments in the GGA  so that family farmers are empowered to scale-up their efforts to ensure food security in a changing climate.

For the first time ever at a UN climate conference, yesterday marked  a full day devoted to addressing the health impacts of climate change. Health Ministers from around the world including Canada’s attended. But the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health, endorsed by over 120 governments,  contains a glaring omission — there is no mention of a fossil fuel phase out, or the impact of fossil fuels on health.

It’s clear to me, to my brothers and sisters of Wet’suwet’en Nation, and to Indigenous communities beyond, that a historic (and still pervasive) driving force of climate change and decimation of land and human health is the colonization of lands for resource extraction —  often, for oil and gas.

In so-called Canada, the 670-km fracked gas Coastal GasLink pipeline is being forced through, with militarized state police engaged in surveillance, intimidation, and violent force, evicting Wet’suwet’en people from our ancestral lands.

Land is more than a place to be bought, sold or profit from. Our ancestors make up every rock, tree, and drop of water from the river — they are the substance on which we rely for life, and to which we return after life. The cycling of materials and nutrients on this planet — the circle of life — is not a figure of speech, but a fact. The health of our land and water is intertwined with our own health. 

As Coastal GasLink destroys lands where my people have lived since time immemorial, we mourn for this loss. And we worry about health damages to come. The impact of fracked gas on health is multifold. Fracking involves blasting massive volumes of water, toxic chemicals, and sand, deep into the earth to fracture rock formations and release natural gas. In addition to chemicals used in fracking that can cause cancer, fracking pollutes drinking water and can negatively impact infants’ health. 

Then there are the climate damages. Methane is a major greenhouse gas, warming the planet by 86 times as much as carbon dioxide. Just 0.2% of leaked methane gas makes it as potent a driver for climate change as coal. As the world heats up, climate impacts have harmful effects on Indigenous Peoples’ physical and mental health.

Earlier this year, massive flooding in sections of Coastal GasLink construction turned a tributary of Wet’suwet’en sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa (known as the Morice River) into a murky brown river of sediment, choking up precious salmon habitat. Coastal GasLink received more than 50 warnings from the British Columbia government, and stop-work orders for violating terms of its environmental assessment certificate. 

In spite of ongoing widespread public opposition, Coastal GasLink continues its “resource extraction”, an innocuous term that hides the truth: it is decimating the health of our land and risking the health of our people. 

My community is not alone in experiencing the health of our land and people sacrificed for colonialist, corporate greed. For over a decade, Indigenous communities living near the oil sands have urged the federal government to conduct a scientific assessment of the toxic health impacts in their communities of oil sands production. 

In 2009, the Alberta Cancer Board confirmed cancer rates were higher in Fort Chipewyan than what would be expected. The board recommended a comprehensive baseline health study by the federal government but one has never been completed, partly due to concerns from Indigenous communities that the oil and gas industry would play a role in the research. It would be counterproductive to allow the suspect of a crime a say in its own investigation, no? 

Which brings me back to COP28. The UN climate conference is a critical meeting on climate change, where state leaders from around the world decide how to work together to tackle climate change. It is irrefutable that a climate-safe, livable world has no room for the continued burning of more oil and gas. But this year, with COP hosted by an oil state and a COP president whose main gig is running an oil company in the midst of a $150 billion expansion, the words “fossil fuel phase out” are contentious. Talk about letting the perpetrator into the negotiation room. 

Science requires a phaseout of fossil fuels. For this to happen, we must acknowledge that greed for profit has no room in any equitable solution toward the protection of planetary, land, and human health. I urge the international community to hold steadfast to the non-negotiable goal of a fossil fuel phase out. The safety of Mother Earth — our ancestors’ legacies and our future generations – depend on it.