By now we’re all familiar with the devastating effects of climate change. We’ve seen it strengthen hurricanes and tropical storms, wreak havoc on rainfall patterns, cause devastating heat waves, and so much more.
But while climate change affects everyone, it does not affect everyone equally.
Farmers in the global south, like those who produce the ingredients in your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors, contribute extremely little to climate change, but bear the brunt of its devastation. The solution? Climate justice.
What is Climate Justice, Anyway?
We've been talking about equality and justice for as long as we’ve been scooping ice cream, and climate change is as much about justice as it is about greenhouse gases.
Climate justice acknowledges that our dependence on fossil fuels has unequally benefited the richest countries, while disproportionately impacting the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world. Those with the lowest carbon footprints are often hardest hit by the effects of climate change.
The Faces of Climate Justice
Love chocolate? What a coincidence, so do we. The Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer, but cocoa farmers are facing lower crop yields due to unpredictable rainfall patterns brought on by climate change. They often don’t have the resources to adapt to or mitigate these effects and many have no safety net when their crops fail. And yet, the Ivory Coast is responsible for just 0.395 metric tons of CO2 emissions per capita. Compare that to, for example, the UK, which emits 5.399 metric tons of CO2 per capita. Climate change is exacerbating the divide between the rich and poor and people of color living in the global south are being hit the hardest.
In 2018 we met Alphonsine, a cocoa farmer and widowed mother of three in the Ivory Coast. She works within the Coopaza Fairtrade Cooperative, harvesting cocoa pods from her 2 hectare farm. Alphonsine loves the many ways that the co-op supports the community, including building latrines and a canteen at the schools, an office and meeting room at the secondary school, and a bridge and well to counteract water shortages.
However, climate change is an increasingly worrying issue for her community. Over the last few years, a lack of rain has meant Alphonsine has ended up with lower than anticipated crop yields. But solutions from the co-op, like growing protective shade trees, have increased her productivity severalfold.
How Fairtrade Helps
Alphonsine isn’t alone in her struggle against climate change, but Fairtrade is working toward solutions that could help many farmers in her position. Every pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is Fairtrade Certified, which means that the farmers who produce our cocoa, vanilla, coffee, bananas, and sugar receive a Fairtrade Premium on top of the guaranteed minimum price for their product.
Farmers can spend their Fairtrade Premium on climate change mitigation projects such as planting shade trees, developing irrigation systems, crop diversification, and clean energy. Years of stewarding the land they live on means farming communities in climate-vulnerable countries already have the knowledge needed to create climate solutions and to protect the ecosystems they rely on.
Fairtrade farmers are already implementing projects on climate change. They are learning to adapt, mitigate, and become more resilient, engaging women and young people to create sustainable solutions to the climate crisis. By working in partnership with Fairtrade, they can invest in the projects, training, and technology they need.
Climate Justice NOW
The story of climate change’s outsized impacts on people who contribute to it the least and are the least able to adapt to it is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it could get worse, especially if we continue to see inaction from our political leaders. Climate change is likely to become the leading cause of humanitarian crises over the next century.
We need our leaders to step up and take aggressive action against climate change now.
Let’s work together to imagine a future that’s cleaner, greener, and fairer for everyone. And now is the perfect opportunity: As we recover from the effects of COVID-19 and head into the next UN climate summit, we must raise our voices and ask our government to take action.
Stand With Fairtrade Farmers
Show your support for 1.8 million Fairtrade farmers who are on the front line of the climate crisis and who are calling for our leaders to be fair with their climate promises. Add your name to their petition now.