The G7 is our chance to kickstart climate action – here’s how

G7 leaders must follow through on their climate financing promises. It starts with funding smallholder farmers

Ban Ki-Moon
Friday 24 June 2022 16:50
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Climate action on this scale has never before been attempted

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and growing instability in the global economy, world leaders gathering for the next G7 summit have their hands full with urgent responsibilities.

Rising to these challenges requires following through on promises to achieve peace, protect public health, and ease poverty. But it also means addressing a threat that both dwarfs and implicates all the others: climate change.

The climate crisis is fast approaching a stage of catastrophic harm that endangers the well-being and livelihoods of billions of people – and the window for preventing the worst possible outcomes shrinks by the day. In fact, we have until the end of this decade to transform the global economy, ending our reliance on fossil fuels and embracing circular forms of production, to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Climate action on this scale has never before been attempted. But the current moment presents us with a clear opportunity to take advantage of major technological gains that have been made in recent years, along with broad public consensus. Indigenous leaders and environmental activists have outlined the necessary course of action for decades. Now, the G7 summit can become the place where heads of state finally listen to this guidance and kickstart a just transition away from fossil fuels.

G7 countries, the world’s most advanced economies, can begin by committing the $100bn in annual climate financing for low-income countries that they initially promised in 2009 but have yet to deliver. They can go further by ensuring these funds come in the form of grants instead of loans, and update funding targets in response to the increasing loss and damages caused by extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and proliferating heat waves.

Responding to the current realities of climate change also entails helping countries deal with existing impacts. This is known as climate adaptation. While the majority of climate finance has gone to climate mitigation – reducing emissions – over the past decade, at least 50 per cent of financing should go to adaptation going forward, and we are nowhere near that 50/50 balance.

Investing in adaptation measures saves countries money in the long-run – the UN estimates that $1.8 trillion spent on adaptation will save more than $7.1 trillion in climate costs.

But what does adaptation look like in the real world? It varies by context, but it could mean restoring storm-blocking wetlands in coastal areas, painting rooftops white in cities to cool living spaces amid blistering heat waves, or installing early-warning systems to ensure communities have time to prepare for natural disasters.

It also means investing in the 500 million smallholder farmers who are essential to the stability of the global food system. Without international support, farmers in frontline communities – already reeling from the impacts of Covid – risk losing their ability to bring crops to harvest, exacerbating the global food crisis.

Without efforts to improve the climate resilience of farmers, agricultural production could decline by up to 30 per cent by 2050, even as the global demand for food rises by 50 per cent.

Farmers need help adapting to the environmental changes that have already occurred and those that are getting worse. For example, as temperatures rise in various breadbaskets, crops need more water to stay hydrated, but many of these same regions are experiencing less rainfall, making it harder to bring crops to fruition.

With financing in research and development for climate smart agriculture, , smallholder farmers can invest in plants that better withstand drought, install more efficient irrigation systems, deploy technologies that can help them plan far into the future, and get better access to markets to ensure their crops don’t go to waste. In this regard, global champions like CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly funded agricultural research network, need to receive more funding for the acceleration of adaptation in agriculture, to ensure food security and increase resilience.

It’s hard to overstate the central role that smallholder farmers play in many communities. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, they produce 80 per cent of the food. An estimated two-thirds of adults living in poverty worldwide earn their income through agriculture.

Yet, smallholder farmers – positioned at the nexus of sustainable development – only receive 1.7 per cent of total climate finance. They’re currently receiving around $10bn in this area, far below their overall need, estimated at $240bn per year. We need to close this vast gap if we want to build a better future.

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Multilateralism has yielded good work in recent years, especially in getting 196 signatories for the Paris climate agreement and adopting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a framework to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change, and reduce inequality by 2030. But there is so much work ahead in fighting climate change, and progress hinges on the investments that are made today in climate adaptation.

We look forward to steps taken following the G7 negotiations, and encourage global leaders to match their words and ambition with concrete climate finance commitments, focusing on equally distributing these funds between mitigation and adaptation ahead of the next UN climate conference, Cop27, in Egypt this November.

How they act now will shape all of our lives – for better or worse.

Ban Ki-Moon is co-chair of the Ban Ki-Moon Centre for Global Citizens and the 8th secretary-general of the United Nations. The G7 Summit 2022 will take place from 26 to 28 June at Schloss Elmau in Germany

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