Exclusive or Inclusive? COP22, The Landless and Developing Communities

COP22 got underway yesterday in Marrakech, like Paris in 2015 the main objective of the convention and its related activities is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, preventing any further damage to climate systems. Essentially COP is there to help ensure the preservation of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations. However, critics have argued that until now huge tranches of people have been excluded from the climate change discussion, with its most fierce critics slamming the whole process as a western, middle class construction.


Indeed science has shown, that climate change is not a construction, however there is truth to the claim that many have been left out of the conversation. In particular the landless and those in developing economies. At present over one billion people lack secure land rights to the land on which the rely for their livelihood, e.g. subsistence farmers, fisherman and small scale traders. This is a serious obstacle for economic and climate development, especially when we note that one quarter of the world’s forest carbon is stored on communal land.


Land insecurity is a barrier to conservation, typically those living or working on communal land are operating with short term horizons, thinking mostly about basic productivity i.e. where will their next meal come from. The poor do not have the time nor money to consider all of the climate friendly practices and tools they could be using. Feeding families and putting a roof over their heads is understandable the bigger issue.


The CEO of Landesa, Chris Jochnick has highlighted that if one quarter of global emissions is going unchecked it will ‘undercut everything we’re trying to do on climate change,’ and this is something COP22 needs to seriously consider. Present NASA projections of global sea level rise by year 2100 range from 0.2 to 2.0 meters. The Paris climate change agreement, agreed upon in December 2015, commits governments to reduce emissions to help limit rising global temperatures to under 2 degrees Celsius. The deal went into effect Friday, just in time for COP22, the United Nations annual climate change conference.


So how do we marry these two issues? The Ford Foundation believes that youth focused funding opportunities will be key to inclusive environmental projects. By engaging younger members of landless communities and empowering them as part of the climate change movement, the ‘them and us’ aspect of so many environmental projects can be overcome. If we don’t endeavor to include the needs of those living off the land in conservation initiatives, we risk alienating those who can help the most.


In addition, many academics have argued that if we generally improve the lot of lower socio-economic communities there is a natural increase in environmental practices so it is up to COP22, governments and NGOs to incorporate an environmental quality to the work they do in the development sphere. FFTD has been particularly impressed by the work carried out at Mombassa Port where not only are UK Aid supported initiatives improving livelihoods through increased productivity and job creation but they are developing the port in a manner that is sensitive to the health of local communities and the wider environment.


COP22 Opened on November 7th and will continue until November 18th 2016.

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