Oxfam Australia

Durban climate negotiations must deliver action to prevent spiralling hunger

Press Release   •   Nov 28, 2011 16:33 SGT

International aid agency Oxfam says Australia must join with other countries to take strong action at this week’s climate change negotiations in Durban or risk pushing millions of people further into hunger and poverty.

Oxfam’s warning comes as it releases new analysis that shows extreme weather events are having devastating impacts on food prices and crop yields, with severe consequences for the world’s poorest people.

The briefing paper, Extreme weather endangers food security, published today, shows how extreme weather events have contributed to global, regional and local food insecurity since 2010.

Oxfam Australia Climate Change Policy Adviser Kelly Dent, who is in Durban for the UN Climate Change Negotiations, which begin today, said food price volatility was having a devastating impact on the world’s poor.

“We are currently seeing the worst levels of volatility in food prices in the past 40 years. For the poorest and most vulnerable who already spend up to 75 per cent of their income on buying food, this could have catastrophic consequences,” Ms Dent said.

“The Australian Government needs to take action at these climate change negotiations. Higher prices and lower purchasing power has driven many people into crisis this year. If we don’t act in Durban, the situation will become even worse.”

Climate change is likely to have an effect on food production in two main ways. Firstly, the slow onset changes in mean temperatures and rainfall patterns are expected to put pressure on average yields. Secondly, more frequent and intense extreme weather events will cause more crop losses.

The Oxfam briefing paper follows recent warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showing extreme weather events are likely to increase in frequency and severity without action on climate change.

The Oxfam analysis shows how extreme weather events impact on food price volatility.

• The tropical cyclone and flooding in Queensland contributed to spikes in global wheat prices in December 2010.
• Severe drought in the Horn of Africa – which has left 13 million people at risk of hunger – has seen a 393 per cent increase in the price of maize in Somalia and a 191 per cent rise in Ethiopia.
• Drought and fires following a heat wave in Russia and Ukraine destroyed much of the 2010 harvest and triggered a 60 – 80 per cent increase in global wheat prices in just three months.

Oxfam is urging governments to continue the Kyoto Protocol and increase their emissions cuts before 2020, after which it will be too late to keep climate change below the 2°C target agreed at last year’s Cancun negotiations.

It is also calling on negotiators in Durban to deliver on promises on long-term finance to help poor people address climate change and to include provisions to ensure developing countries have some control on how the money is spent.

For a copy of the briefing paper click here, or to interview Kelly Dent in Durban, please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au

Oxfam Australia is part of a global movement of dedicated people working hard to fight poverty and injustice.