Climate change hits small-scale farmers from across the globe first and worst

writes Kieran O’Brien from CAFOD

Climate change has an impact upon the lives of billions of people throughout the world. Its effects are wide-reaching and complex. Small-holder farmers in particular are suffering from the impacts of dramatic climate events such as severe storms, drought and flooding; while unpredictable weather patterns have impacted on harvests, preventing farmers from feeding themselves and undermining their livelihoods. It has also increased pressure on water resources in many already drought-stricken regions and, in some areas, led to intensifying competition for natural resources and violent conflict.

CAFOD has worked for 50 years through grassroots organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America to tackle poverty and injustice. In that time we have seen more and more examples of how communities already facing the problems of poverty have had their situations made even worse by changes in climate and environmental damage. These impacts are particularly evident in those communities that rely on agriculture to feed themselves and make a living.

We’ve carried out research into poor people’s priorities and perspectives for development. The research showed that the impacts of climate change, such as a trend to increasing natural disasters, are one of the most important factors that keep people in poverty. These new factors are in addition to a range of inequalities that have existed for decades. As a result, the wellbeing of many people in poverty has deteriorated over the last 15 years.

One of the main priorities expressed by the people we interviewed for the research was to have employment or access to assets such as livestock and land, which allows them to build viable and sustainable livelihoods. But the effects of climate change have harmed the livelihoods of many small-scale farmers, hindering their ability to earn a living and trapping them in poverty. Unless action is taken to help them adapt to climate change and to tackle its root causes, their chance of building viable livelihoods will diminish even further in the future.

We have to remember that it is the small-scale farmers from across the globe that have contributed very little towards climate change, yet are suffering disproportionately from many of its associated consequences. That is why in CAFOD we see climate change as a justice issue; we who are responsible for the causes of climate change also have a responsibility for the solution.  So it falls to developed countries, such as Wales, who bear the greatest responsibility to show leadership.

Whilst there are positive signs that the Welsh Government is taking climate change seriously, there is still room from improvement. The government target for a 40% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions in Wales by 2020 is an ambitious one, but one that we must hold our government to account, as this outlines the total impact from Wales on the world. As poor communities from across the globe struggle with the affects of climate change, meeting these targets is our moral obligation in Wales.

Read CAFOD’s new report on Climate Change What have we done? How the changing climate is hitting the poorest hardest 



Climate science is clear – let’s have clarity on how Wales will act

Following the latest stark warnings on climate change, it’s now time to focus on our delivery of climate policy in Wales  writes Jessica McQuade from WWF Cymru.

Amid all the noise about economic growth, jobs, public sector cuts and energy prices, all of us in Wales would do well to re-engage with the issue of climate change and its impact on our current priorities as a nation.

I’ve recently joined WWF Cymru as Policy and Advocacy Officer, at a critical time for climate change policy in Wales. I am a member of the Climate Change Commission for Wales and attended the Rio+20 Earth Summit so I have a particular interest in how we tackle climate change from a social justice perspective.

For anyone who is interested in the development of Wales and the livelihoods of its people, climate change should be part of this discussion.

September saw the publication of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report, a major international report confirming the science of climate change. The scientists are 95% certain that humans have caused the majority of climate change since the 1950s.

They also have a far clearer picture of the toll climate change is already taking on our environment: sea level rise is accelerating; our oceans are acidifying; the rate of Arctic sea ice retreat has doubled.

There is a strong economic argument for tackling climate change. The Stern Review demonstrated that the benefits of strong, early action far outweigh the costs of not acting. It showed how emissions are driven by economic growth; yet stabilisation of greenhouse gases is feasible and consistent with continued growth – it depends on what kind of growth we choose.

Importantly, the Stern Review also showed how climate change will impact disproportionally on the poorest people in the world. This also applies to the poorest people in Wales. Climate change is a social and economic issue as well as an environmental one.

In my first week in post it was good to see that the Minister responsible for Wales’ efforts on climate change, Alun Davies, tweeting: “The #IPCC report shows the evidence is clear. We’re committed to continuing our action to tackle climate change.”

The Minister certainly ‘gets’ the science – in contrast to some Westminster politicians. His recent budget statement to committee included references to green growth –  strongly suggesting he also ‘gets’ the economic argument.

The question is now whether he and his colleagues also ‘get’ the sort of climate policy that we need to respond to the science.

In terms of our progress, we’ll soon get a good indication of how Welsh Government is doing in terms of bringing down our emissions – in the first ever report on Welsh Government’s progress against its Climate Change Strategy (2010).

It’s likely the report will show the government is on target to meet its 3% reduction in ‘areas of devolved responsibility’. It will be interesting to see how much of this is to do with the direct impact of Welsh Government climate change policy and how much is due to external factors such as the recession.

The other government target is for a 40% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions in Wales by 2020. This is arguably a more important target than the 3% one, as this is the total impact from Wales on the world.

Achieving this 40% cut will mean reducing emissions from buildings, transport and industry in Wales. Welsh, UK and EU policies, regulations and laws all have an impact.

Approximately two-fifths of this target needs to be met by EU or UK Government measures and 30% by specific Welsh Government policies.

Some of this 40% target is therefore tied up in UK Government energy policy. Wales’ lack of devolved energy powers is a big challenge for Welsh Government but should not be an excuse for inaction.

Welsh Government has announced that it’s reviewing its Climate Change Strategy early next year. In it, the Minister needs to set out a clear plan to achieve the 40% reduction, including what is needed from the UK Government under the current arrangements.

All government policies must be aligned with bringing down emissions – yet decisions such as the recent watering down of energy efficiency standards in new homes suggest there is currently not consistent cross-government commitment.

There is plenty of scope for ‘win-win’ solutions which tackle climate change as well as creating jobs and bringing down poverty. For example, the WWF Cymru report Cutting Carbon Emissions in Welsh Homes identified how targeting home improvements at the poorest quality houses in Wales would slash energy bills, cut fuel poverty by 40%, reduce our impact on climate change and create thousands of jobs.

The current Climate Change Strategy is framed around our global responsibility and this is something that needs to stay at the heart of our approach.

Wales must not duck its international responsibility to play its part. A recent visit to Cardiff from Limin Wang, our colleague from WWF China, was a strong reminder that all countries, big or small, need to act.

WWF Cymru is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru


Wales takes a world lead on active travel

by Matt Hemsley

The Climate Change Commission for Wales has consistently highlighted that there is room for improvement in tackling emissions from transport in Wales1, and it is certainly a concern that emissions from transport have increased in recent years.

The transport sector in Wales accounts for around one-fifth of all devolved greenhouse gas emissions, so if we are to meet our (rightly) ambitious climate change targets, then action is needed fairly urgently.

Earlier this month, the Welsh Government took a bold step forward, as the Active Travel Bill was passed, making Wales the first country in the world to legislate for the provision of routes designed for cycling and walking.

Just under half of the trips we make in Wales are under three miles, and a staggering 18% of trips by car are under one mile in length – there is huge potential to cut emissions from car use simply by making walking and cycling the most attractive option for these shorter journeys we make every day.

On average, a Welsh primary school child lives 1.4 miles from their school, a distance easily cycled – but who can blame the parent who doesn’t want to let their child cycle on a busy road, often with fast moving traffic?

Yet in Wales – as in much of the UK – cycling and walking are treated as an afterthought. We have designed for decades purely for the car. Our communities aren’t the places for people they once were and the thought of children cycling and playing in the street seems almost absurd.  Money spent on walking and cycling has tended to be end of year underspend, with schemes rushed forward to meet tight deadlines, leading to what is easiest to build being built, not what would be most useful.

So this legislation will make a huge practical difference.  It will ensure that all local authorities in Wales have to have a strategic plan for delivering an active travel network, so when funds become available we deliver new routes in a more strategic way.  It comes with new design standards, which means the routes mapped will have to be up to the highest standard – hopefully an end to the bits of red tarmac seemingly painted at random on our roads.  There will also be an annual report in the Welsh Assembly – something recommended in the landmark Get Britain Cycling report at Westminster.

However, changing behaviour isn’t just about infrastructure; it takes softer measure programmes too, such as information provision, cycle training and free maintenance checks.  So the Welsh Government is to be commended for bringing forward an amendment to the Bill that ensures both Welsh Ministers and councils will have to consider promotion alongside the maps and routes.

There are other benefits too, most notably in public health and to the economy through reduced congestion – the latter, of course, a big cause of emissions from vehicles.

The Bill is a bold step forward, and has the potential to make a big difference– it’s the sort of initiative we need to see more of if we’re going to start reducing emissions from the transport sector in Wales.

Matt Hemsley is the Policy Advisor at Sustrans Cymru.  He tweets at @m_hemsley

Sustrans is a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day.  Sustrans Cymru led the campaign for the Active Travel Bill and is a member of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru.


1)      Climate Change Commission for Wales, 2nd Annual Report


New housing energy plans are a wasted opportunity

Alun James from Stop Climate Chaos Cymru member organisation WWF Cymru recently wrote the blog below for their website about the Welsh Government’s announcement on new housing energy plans.

See the blog itself:

The recent announcement by Welsh housing minister Carl Sargeant that the Welsh government is watering down plans for better insulated, more energy-efficient new homes is bad news for householders and for the environment.

Better insulated houses mean less heating is needed, lower fuel costs for residents – and less carbon being burnt.

In a major change of tack, the minister said that new building regulations in Wales would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% from 2010 levels, not the 40% initially proposed.

The announcement also lacked any commitment to build to the higher standards until 2021.

This contrasts with a statement by the UK department for communities and local government on 30 July which, while introducing 2014 standards similar to the new Welsh ones, stresses that zero-carbon homes will be built in England from 2016.

At WWF-Cymru we’re calling on the minister to categorically state that standards here will not slip behind those in England.

The weakened ambitions in the Welsh government’s new building regulations represent a false economy, locking people into higher energy bills and delaying Wales’ efforts on tackling climate change.

Only last year the Welsh government had great ambitions for what it could do with its new powers over building regulations.

From 2013, it claimed, new regulations were going to “achieve a 55% improvement in energy efficiency over 2006 levels (40% over 2010 levels)” which was consistent with a goal set out in the current programme for government.

This was hailed as part of the government’s “commitment to tackling climate change and its duty to promote sustainable development”.

The Welsh government recognised that these high standards would be introduced a few years before similar improvements in England. When the lobbyists for the building industry complained this would make homes more expensive to build in Wales, the Welsh government told them they should welcome the chance to improve their techniques here first, and this could give companies based in Wales a competitive advantage for building in England post 2016.

But now they have caved in to pressure from the building sector – even though, ironically, the websites of the big housing developers keep stressing the benefits of better home energy efficiency.

With Ofgem reporting that the average gas bill in the UK is £811 a year, is the Welsh government happy to commit buyers of new Welsh homes to pay hundreds of pounds more on heating bills than they need to?

Why is the Welsh government ignoring the very good reasons for improving home energy efficiency? As well as the need to tackle climate change and promote sustainable development, more energy-efficient homes are what people want. In May 2012 the Zero Carbon Hub showed how such homes could cut annual bills in half and reported on a survey that revealed that 69% of consumers would be happy to pay a premium for an energy-efficient home.

On top of this, in June this year, the UK government published research showing that “making energy saving improvements to your property could increase its value by 14% on average”.

In summary, we have a situation in which measures that could slash heating costs in new homes are delayed by years – even though these were promised by the Welsh government, are supported by most people and would have real benefits in improving the resale value of the property.

The minister stated the proposed change “is an interim step towards meeting our legal obligations for all new buildings to be built to zero-carbon (and nearly zero-energy) set out in EU law by 2021”.

But no mention is made of keeping pace with the changes to be introduced in England, from 2016. Does this mean that our new homes will be less efficient than those across the border? Let’s hope not.

It’s not too late for the Welsh government to make some amends: we’re calling on the minister to clearly state that Wales’ building regulations will be updated again before 2016 to ensure that new Welsh homes are built to standards at least as good as those required elsewhere in the UK, and that there’s a clear path for making steady progress to the zero-carbon goal.

Alun James, WWF Cymru