Cancun: Rural Poor Need Climate Finance

By Rodney Cooke

In Cancun yesterday afternoon, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that countries must, in a spirit of conciliation, “offer to compromise first,” if progress is to be made.   The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, followed suit asking countries to show “courage, common sense and compromise." 

Negotiating governments have this choice, 500 million smallholder farms in developing countries that today feed one-third of humanity don’t have a choice.  Farmers in developing countries are courageously using their common sense to produce what they can, often on some of the most climatically vulnerable and marginal land on our planet.  By directly hitting both their earning capacity and their food security, climate change will force them to make compromises: many will need to compromise their children’s education for farm labor, compromise the quality of their land and soil to squeeze a few more bushels of maize out of a hillside plot, or compromise the long term productivity of their pastureland to keep a precious cow or goat alive through a drought. Climate change will force them to make these and other hard compromises.  

At the very least, Cancun must result in increased adaptation funding that will benefit the rural poor and smallholder farmers, and enable them to continue feeding themselves and a global population projected to be more than 9 billion by 2050.  If a new Fund for long term financing is agreed upon here, its first order of business should be to ensure that those suffering today receive the support they need.  

Climate change provides both the imperative and the opportunity to scale up proven approaches to intensify ecosystem-based, sustainable agricultural production.  These include sustainable land and water management, agroforestry, integrated pest management and conservation agriculture, among others.  These approaches will reduce poverty and increase food security globally, as they increase the resilience of rural poor people to climate change by restoring and protecting their land, water and other natural assets. In addition, these approaches will chart environmentally sustainable and low carbon development paths.  

These fabled multiple wins are within reach today.