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Op-ED: Fund Our Future Campaign

Fund Our Future Campaign

Defunding industrial agriculture in favour of sustainable alternatives like agroecology is key in the fight against the climate crisis and food insecurity.

Defunding industrial agriculture in favour of sustainable alternatives like agroecology is key in the fight against the climate crisis and food insecurity.

Even the most ardent climate change denialists would have been stumped by the extraordinary weather patterns across Europe, the Americas, and Asia in July. It is now in the history books that July 2023 was the hottest month since records began, and unless decisive climate action is taken, the same history will judge our generation harshly for neglecting a just cause for climate justice.

For millions around the world, climate disasters such as droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes continue to hit at an unprecedented scale leaving a trail of destruction. As expected, the most affected are the poor, especially in the Global South, who contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

As global temperatures increase, the United Nations has warned that the years 2023 to 2027 will be the warmest five-year period ever recorded. The time to act is now.

The discourse on factors fuelling the climate crisis has mostly focused on fossil fuels, as the largest contributor of GHG. Meanwhile, the role of agriculture – in particular, industrial agriculture has somehow managed to fly under the climate radar.

Many people assume that industrial agriculture is the panacea to food insecurity. But in fact, it is worsening climate change and causing widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, driving land grabs, threatening livelihoods, and contributing to severe health risks.   

There is a need to tackle the climate crises head-on addressing the root causes of fossil fuels and harmful agribusiness that are fuelling warming, perpetuating power imbalances, and oppression of the poor.

Pressure is required for fossil fuel and industrial agriculture corporations to stop wreaking harm, and for governments to update energy, agriculture, and climate policies to constrain these destructive actors. But we also know that money talks. And that for as long as the world’s banks continue to finance these climate-wrecking corporations, the problem will continue.

According to new research by ActionAid, published in the report “How the finance flows: The banks fuelling the climate crisis” since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016, the world’s biggest banks have provided US$370 billion to industrial agriculture activities in the Global South. In the same timeframe, a further US$3.7 trillion has funded fossil fuel activities in the Global South. This is 20 times more financing to fossil fuels and agribusiness activities in the Global South than Global North governments have provided as climate finance to address issues of loss and damage, adaptation, and mitigation. 

In other words, 20 times more money is going to the causes of the climate crisis in the Global South, than the solutions. This is absurd. This is suicidal.

As the fight for climate justice trudges on, the time has come for communities on the front lines of the climate crisis to hold banks to account for the decisions made in their distant boardrooms. The world’s money flows must move away from funding the biggest drivers of the climate crisis and destruction and move towards funding the future of our planet. It is time to call for banks to stop financing harmful agribusiness and fossil fuels. And it is time for governments to ramp up support for real and sustainable solutions such as agroecology.

One wonders why governments in the Global South have delayed placing their trust in agroecology which has proven so potent in addressing food insecurity and empowering the vulnerable especially women and youth.

The answer may lie in the notion that agroecology – in which farmers use clever techniques to farm with nature instead of against it - cannot feed nations at the scale that industrial agriculture is believed to.  Interestingly, research has shown that smallholder farmers produce approximately 80 percent of the food supply in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In any case, industrial agriculture is inclined towards exports rather than meeting local food demands with most of the profits from controlled by a few multinational corporations rather than returning to farmers’ own pockets. 

As we explore the potency of agroecology as a viable alternative, it cannot be lost to us that scaling up agroecology requires more financial support. It is important that public financing is channeled to the transition to sustainable food systems in the form of agroecology. In addition, the approach towards food security must emphasise food sovereignty which places the welfare of smallholder producers, the soils, and the environment at the centre of the discourse replacing harmful chemicals with sustainable alternatives.

As ActionAid launches its Global Climate Justice Campaign on defunding the drivers of climate change, that is, fossil fuels and industrial agriculture, the world must take heed and embrace the opportunity to pursue sustainable, women-led, ecologically sound, and fair alternatives.

This is a clarion call to take a moment and reflect on the “Only One Earth” slogan from the 1972 United Nations conference on the human environment. Unless we act now, future generations will not have much left to inherit.