on 16th October 2015

We’re all eaters on one planet…

Have you eaten today? It’s World Food Day, so when you do – because we all eat – ponder where your food comes from, who grew or raised it, and what the future holds for that food producer and for you – an eater. Do this especially if you’re a policymaker heading to the climate talks next week.

Globally almost 800 million people are chronically hungry. Over 75 percent of people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas – and many depend on agriculture. Climate change impacts all aspects of food security – not just production but access to food, stability of food, and how food is used or consumed. Hunger, poverty, climate change, inequality. We cannot end hunger, we cannot end poverty without tackling climate change and inequality.

In my last blog, I shared how policymakers can use the human rights map to guide their way from the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals to COP 21 in Paris. That human rights map runs through World Food Day. Policymakers must not veer off course as they resume climate negotiations next week.

Need reading material for the roadtrip to Paris? Pick up the new report from CARE, Food Tank, and CCAFS: Cultivating Equality: Delivering Just and Sustainable Food Systems in a Changing Climate. Inequality in food systems, at global levels, in local communities, and within households shapes hunger, poverty, and vulnerability to climate change.

When women eat last in a household, there is inequality. When women farmers cannot own land or borrow money, there is inequality. When small-scale food producers have no access to reliable weather or climate information, there is inequality. When small-scale farmers compete in the market with bigger, more powerful actors, there is inequality. When small-scale fishers compete with large-scale operations encroaching in local waters, there is inequality. When policies and budgets impacting agriculture and climate change are made without small-scale food producers and women at the table, there is inequality – entrenched inequality. When climate change hits the people most and worst who are least responsible for causing it, there is inequality – and injustice.

Signpost 5 on the human rights map to COP 21 is protection and promotion of food security, environmental integrity, and gender equality. To do this, Parties to the UNFCCC must do three things:

  1. First, all climate action should be guided by principles which respect human rights, ensure food security, promote gender equality, and protect environmental integrity. How can Parties be sure of this? Say it in the Paris agreement – and not just in the preamble. Numerous constituencies – showing unity among gender, human rights, environmental, development, and other groups – have agreed on language to be included in the Paris Agreement among the purposes and provisions that guide all climate action. It’s time for Parties to follow the lead of civil society.
  2. Second, if Parties can undertake mitigation action in the land sector, they must ensure actions in the land sector do not undermine food security or rights. Land means many things to many people: it is a source of livelihoods, food & nutrition security, natural ecosystems, and cultural identity. Parties and the Paris outcome must acknowledge the unique nature of the land sector.
  3. Third, if mitigation action is to be taken in a sector that is of such critical importance, particularly for millions of small-scale farmers, principles and guidelines for those actions must be in place. Guidelines should ensure mitigation actions do not undermine land tenure and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, must protect food security, must ensure social principles to promote equitable sharing of benefits and effective participation of rights holders, and must protect environmental integrity of natural ecosystems. The Paris Agreement and decision should mandate a process for developing principles and guidelines for mitigation action in the land sector.

Action in the land sector will not contribute to solving the climate crisis if action comes at the expense of food security or human rights. On this World Food Day and in this year, policymakers must seize the opportunity to advance the equality agenda, tackle the climate crisis, and set us on a path to end hunger. We all have a right to food. We all live on this one planet.

Tonya Rawe, Senior Advisor for Policy and Research, Food & Nutrition Security Unit, CARE USA

Tonya Rawe

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