Article by Imran Chaudhri
Climate change has imperceptibly become the bitter taste in everyone’s mouths when discussing the prospects of our world. Although we know action must be taken, some would rather not sacrifice their present interests and enjoyments to achieve this. Nevertheless, the aim of this article is not to make you feel guilty for eating non-Fairtrade chocolate, but to discuss how climate change will likely be a threat to us through its effects on the economy.
An evident primary consequence of climate change has been a reduction in biodiversity across all regions of the world. The FT cited this decline as a frightening 69% between 1970 and 2018, with areas such as Latin America and the Caribbean suffering the worst (94%). As extinction consecutively threatens more species each year, biodiversity is under the spotlight as a major factor within sustainability discussions in businesses.
This malignant pressure on the natural world has transferred to the markets, with substantial commercial responses being set up beyond the United Nations Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as COP, events. The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, set up by the Financial Stability Board of the G20, made “guidelines for companies to report on biodiversity” in July 2020, testing this framework on 200 companies before its anticipated release this September. The generation of additional frameworks, backed by respected bodies such as WWF and the UN, could cause companies found to be common culprits of damaging our environment, like Nestle and Danone, to be challenged regarding their irresponsible practices, now more than ever.
All these restrictions would seem like a step in the right direction, but that may just be the issue – they’re restrictive. Farmers, for one, find the EU’s “green agenda” financially suffocating and ambiguous as to its application, especially when there are 9.1 million farms of varying “types and scale”.
Some measures covered within the agenda included “a 50% cut in pesticide application by 2030”, tackling nitrogen pollution through GPS tracking and preventing farming within 5 metres of water.
These policy decisions have been threatening to the emotional wellbeing of farmers, and it isn’t hard to see why. Even before this regulatory action began, the French Institute for Health found that “farmers were three times more likely to commit suicide than other professionals”. Also, considering that farmers have always made tight profit margins, the idea that their practices may be constrained would suggest a huge proportion of farmers having to shut down their operations under these new policies. EU policymakers contrasted these viewpoints by arguing the measures would prevent “major fundamental threats to food security” in the long run.
With there not being too much room for compromises, Krijn Popp, an agricultural economist, suggested certain regions, like the Netherlands, should possibly be targeted instead of applying harsh rules across the board. As Franc Bogovič, a farmer and Slovenian European parliament member, pointed out, many farming businesses invest using loans with an expectation for them to reap the benefits after many years. If the EU plans to implement its green agenda within a short window, this could gravely disrupt millions of smaller farms that aren’t particularly problematic, leaving them with heavy debts to pay off.
This game of tug-of-war is not just between agricultural businesses and policymakers, but between the policymakers themselves. EU agriculture commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, has called for more Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding to account for the inflation propelled by the Ukraine war.
With that in mind, there seems to be a general solution to be found – the EU, and other policy and guidance bodies, must act quickly to create a long-term plan to tackle and monitor environmentally irresponsible business practices. They should first target countries and markets with the heaviest footprints and should consider whether applying hard rules equally to all businesses is right. With funding and wellbeing support being offered by those inflicting the wounds, there may be hope that the agricultural market can coexist with environmentalists.
The COP events have been held almost every year since 1995 to debate and review progress towards fighting climate change. As COP 27 expected approximately 35,000 delegates from 197 countries, it is implied that these landmark discussions are usually rife with political controversy.
The most recent news has raised alarms as to who is really in control of the COP events and whether there is actually an intention for genuine headway to be made. With COP 28 set to be held in UAE, the nation has appointed oil executive Sultan Al Jaber as the head of the summit, causing over “130 lawmakers from the US and EU” to write to the UN, requesting his removal. It isn’t hard to see why big names, such as Joe Biden and Ursula von der Leyen, supported a joint letter to the UN, as Sultan Al Jaber, a man who had directly profited from the most polluting industry in the world now was the concerningly ironic figurehead of environmental progress. Those supporting the head stated that he was “cleaning up their (the UAE state oil company ADNOC) operations and reducing emissions”. No matter how great Jaber’s contribution could be to cleaning up the company’s oil production process, the BBC argued that the use of that oil would be “dwarfed” by the “emissions produced when it used”.
Appointments like this are significant because they can culturally steer the creation of legislation that may slow down climate change, or open the floodgates of environmental damage. With metrics such as biodiversity dwindling irreversibly, it is essential that influential bodies, such as the UN and EU, are composed of the right people to make the right decisions. Only time will tell how significant, and beneficial, Jaber’s involvement may be.
Biodiversity decline: https://biodiversitystripes.info/global; Living Planet Index database, 2022
New taskforces: https://www.ft.com/content/5c8c2aa5-8735-4123-8092-aca3fcda37a4
Farmers unhappy with EU restrictions: https://www.ft.com/content/c3d5212c-b289-4b00-8e41-fd0bc5827922
COP28 Controversy: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-65708328