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A corporate cartel fertilises food inflation

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Last year’s financial results from the world’s largest fertiliser companies are now in — and it’s a shocker. Given the sky high fertiliser prices of 2022, it was anticipatedthat their revenues would break records, but no one could have predicted this scale of profiteering. As the world grappled with a severe food crisis and farmers saw costs rise, the world’s largest fertiliser firms ramped up their margins and more than tripled their profits from two years ago.

Graph 1

Graph 1 shows the total profits of the big nine fertiliser companies over the past five years. They exponentially grew from an average of around US$14 billion before the Covid-19 pandemic to US$28 billion in 2021 and then to an astounding US$49 billion last year. International agencies like the World Bank blamed the spike in fertiliser prices on the Russian war in Ukraine, resulting in high natural gas prices (used to produce nitrogen fertiliser) from shortages and trade disruptions. But as can be seen in Graph 2, a major part of the story is the monopoly power of the fertiliser companies. These companies increased prices far beyond the increases in production costs and boosted their profit margins to a massive 36% in 2022.
Graph 2
There are signs that fertiliser prices are coming down from their stratospheric heights earlier this year, but the effects of the price spike are still being felt. The high prices and lack of supply in some countries caused farmers to cut fertiliser use, thereby reducing production levels and contributing to an alarming rise in global food insecurity. The high prices also pushed many farmers deeper into debt. Farmers from Cameroon to the U.S. say they are still spending three times as much on fertilisers as they were a few years ago. And in countries where fertilisers are heavily subsidised, the price spike has saddled governments with huge debts. In India alone, the central government’s expenditure on fertiliser subsidies last year surged from US$9.8 billion to US$17.1 billion. People are paying the price for the fertiliser industry’s price gouging.
The costs are also rising for the planet. Chemical fertilisers are a major source of environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, with nitrogen fertilisers alone accounting for one out of every 40 tonnes of annual emissions. New reports from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and Earth4All, a global collective of leading scientists and economists, make it clear that steep and immediate reductions in global fertiliser use are required to avert catastrophic climate change. Both recommend a near phase-out of nitrogen fertiliser consumption by 2050 (see Graph 3). The idea is not to recklessly crash production levels, but a planned transition toward more sustainable, agroecological farming systems that require less or no fertiliser.
Graph 3
It is increasingly clear that today’s food inflation is a product of both corporate greed and ecological breakdown. Obscene levels of profit-taking by corporations are happening across the food system, from fertilisers to processing to retail, and this is pushing up prices. But the way these corporations organise our food production and distribution is also driving climate change and, undermining the capacity for the global food system to deliver affordable and accessible food, now and over the long term.
Bold new approaches are urgently needed to reign in corporate power in the food system and turn the food crisis around. When it comes to fertilisers, policy actions like windfall taxes and price controls can help. But to deal with both profiteering and environmental catastrophe we need to transition food production to rely far less on chemical fertilisers. The fertiliser industry will be pushing for the opposite when it gathers for its annual meeting in Prague this week, yet around the world there are farmers and rural movements already leading a transition away from chemical fertilisers, with plenty of successful examples to learn from. What’s holding us back is the structural political change needed at all levels to address the excess profiteering from the fertiliser industry, and chart a new path toward more resilient food systems.
Source: grain.org

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New Report: Only 0.3% of Climate Change Funding Reaches Family Farmers

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The World Rural Forum, together with 7 of its regional member organisations representing family farming in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific, alongside other key allies, are part of a new report unveiling international climate funding directed towards family farming.

November 16, 2023 – The recent report conducted by Climate Focus and published by the World Rural Forum sheds light on inequities in funding to address climate change. Despite family farmers producing a third of the world’s food, only a mere 0.3% of the international climate finance has been directed to them.

Alongside the World Rural Forum (FRM), the family farmer organisations participating in the report are: Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), Eastern and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF), Regional Platform of Farmers’ Organisations in Central Africa (PROPAC), Maghreb and North African Farmers Union (UMNAGRI), Network of West African Farmers’ and Producers’ Organisations of (ROPPA), Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), Pacific Islands Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON), Confederation of Family Farmers Producers’ Organizations of Greater Mercosur (COPROFAM), and the Regional Rural Dialogue Program (PDRR).

The detailed analysis, conducted by Climate Focus in collaboration with the said organisations, the FFF and the FFORA, reveals an alarming situation: despite their crucial role in global food security, most family farmers lack adequate financial support to adapt to climate challenges.

Hakim Baliraine, President of ESAFF and a member of the WRF, underscored the urgency of this situation: “The climate crisis has pushed hunger to 122 million people since 2019. Reversing this trend won’t be possible if governments continue to tie the hands of millions of family farmers.”

The report outlines that 80% of climate funding aimed at the agri-food sector is channelled through recipient governments and NGOs of donor countries. This creates significant barriers for family farming organisations to access these funds due to complex eligibility regulations and a lack of information on how to apply for these resources.

Alberto Broch, President of COPROFAM and Vice President of the WRF, emphasized: “Our message to governments is clear: There is a vast accumulated knowledge that is imperative to harness. Over 600 million family farms are already committed to building more sustainable and resilient food systems.”

Esther Penunia, Secretary General of AFA and a member of the WRF, stated: “Generations of family farming experience and the latest scientific evidence demonstrate that working with nature and empowering local communities is key to safeguarding food production in an ever-changing climate. A major re-evaluation of climate finance is needed to support these proven climate solutions, allocating much more funding to family farmers and sustainable practices such as agroecology.”

Indeed, within a context of the dramatic impact of the climate crisis on family farming production systems in many territories, this report highlights the need to reorient international climate finance to facilitate the transition of family farming towards more sustainable and agroecological agronomic practices. Which, in turn, will help them to overcome family farmers’ vulnerability to extreme weather phenomena by investing in available assets, while strengthening public policies specific for family farming.

The World Rural Forum will facilitate the participation of an international delegation of family farmers at the upcoming climate summit, COP28, proposing a greater role for family farming in climate negotiations and funds, recognizing its catalytic role in the climate action, the transformation of food systems, and the protection of biodiversity.

Download the full report here

Source: World Rural Forum (WRF) 

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NGO WORK

Faced with global crises, we demand concrete actions from governments to ensure Food Sovereignty for our Peoples and our Peasant Rights

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Press Release for the International Day of Action for Peoples’ Food Sovereignty against Transnational Corporations – October 16, 2023


On the 16th of October, as we commemorate the International Day of Struggle for People’s Food Sovereignty, we, La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasants and rural communities, once again take to the streets, flood social media platforms, and occupy public squares and spaces. Our aim is to hold those responsible for the severe food crisis humanity is facing accountable. In today’s world, wars continue to rage destructively. A clear example is Israel’s recent genocidal strategy, which for 10 days has completely denied 2.5 million Palestinians access to essential resources such as food, water and electricity, actions that undeniably constitute war crimes. Our struggle for peoples’ sovereignty over their food and our efforts to confront those who deprive them of it remains a top priority for La Via Campesina.

We denounce the World Food Forum organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) this week in Rome and the ongoing transnational corporations takeover of FAO.

We are highly concerned about the World Food Forum, which is especially encouraging the action of global youth, linking them to new technologies and innovation in the food systems promoted by agribusiness. We do not need a reinvention of corporate power to solve world’s hunger, we need instead our governments to have autonomy to decide about their food. We need our peasant rights to be respected and promoted.

It is we, the peasants, who are guaranteeing food for our peoples on a daily basis, and yet we are also among the populations most affected by these crises. Our lands, our water and our seeds continue to be grabbed and owned by agribusiness transnationals. The climate crisis, exacerbated by extractivism, is displacing millions of us and our families, and hunger and malnutrition continue to increase globally. Our peasant rights to a dignified life and social justice continue to be violated. Our lives are at constant risk.

The call of the global peasant movement remains to return to the land, to continue our ancestral legacy of healthy peasant production with agroecological proposals and equitable participation. We aim to integrate new generations, diversities, and alliances in our territories.

This call for action, also want to highlight the process that social movements have initiated towards building a Nyeleni Global Forum for Food Sovereignty in 2025. At this point, we are engaged in a collective effort to broaden and strengthen the struggle for food sovereignty, by forming alliances with climate justice movements, labor unions, feminist groups, and environmental organizations to foster shared proposals for systemic change. Our upcoming 8th International Conference to be held in Colombia from December 1st to 8th will also be a decisive space for convergence and mobilization.

This October, we will continue to negotiate for a binding treaty to effectively challenge transnational corporate power and impunity. Together with civil society, we are in a campaign to end the human-rights violations that transnational corporations continue to do with impunity on our lands and territories. From 23 to 27 of 2023, a peasant delegation will participate in the 9th Session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG), charged with elaborating a UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights (OEIGWG). Legal progress at the international level would allow us to take transnational agribusiness corporations to court whenever they violate our rights, just as they do with our States when they fail to comply with their imposed norms.

A new achievement: UNDROP now has a Special Procedure at the United Nations

Our current struggle for Food Sovereignty is making great progress in the international legal framework. Since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas – UNDROP, we have not stopped mobilizing for its implementation at global, national, regional and local levels. When COVID restrictions were lifted worldwide allowing a return to normal life, LVC and our allies seized the moment to increase pressure for the creation of a Special Procedure (specifically a UN Working Group) on UNDROP at the UN Human Rights Council before the end of 2023.

And we have succeeded. The UN Working Group on UNDROP, adopted in a UN Human Rights Council resolution this October 11, will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the UNDROP, and for providing support and technical assistance to countries to help them better implement the Declaration. This UN Working Group will be very useful to strengthen the promotion and protection of the rights of food producers around the globe. There is no doubt that humanity can use this mechanism to tackle the global crises we face, especially in rural areas. This is a huge victory in our fight for Food Sovereignty.

Urgent actions to safeguarding Food Sovereignty and Human Rights:

  1. Immediate restoration of essential resources: We demand that Israel immediately restore access to essential resources, including food, water, and electricity, to the 2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. The denial of these basic necessities constitutes a violation of international law and human rights. This request is also extended to all peoples whose Food Sovereignty is being violated by the actions of other States as a result of wars and conflicts like Haiti, Cuba, Niger, among others.
  2. Binding Treaty Against Corporate Impunity: We call for the swift finalization and adoption of a legally-binding treaty that holds transnational corporations accountable for human rights violations. Transnational agribusiness corporations must be held legally responsible whenever they infringe upon our rights.
  3. Full Implementation and Monitoring of UNDROP: We urge the international community to actively support and monitor the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP). The newly established UN Working Group on UNDROP should be empowered to ensure that the rights of food producers globally are promoted, protected, and upheld.

Source: viacampesina.org

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World Bank is backing dozens of new coal projects, despite climate pledges

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New research shows that the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, is providing back-door support to at least 39 new coal projects, constituting over 68 gigawatts of new coal-fired power capacity throughout China, Indonesia and Cambodia.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group, is indirectly backing dozens of new coal projects throughout Asia, according to a new report, Blowing Smoke: How Coal Finance is Flowing through the IFC’s Paris Alignment Loopholes. The report, based on research conducted by Inclusive Development International, Recourse and Trend Asia, was published today, in advance of the World Bank Annual Meetings taking place in Marrakech next week.

“We found that the IFC is still backing new coal capacity through its investments in banks and other financial institutions despite its commitments to align those investments with the Paris Agreement,” said David Pred, executive director of Inclusive Development International. “This is the opposite of the sustainable development that IFC purports to promote, and it is having a devastating impact on coal-affected communities throughout Asia and the entire planet in this time of climate peril.”

A planned 700-megawatt coal-fired power plant called Jambi 2, to be located in Indonesia’s Jambi province, is among the new coal projects the IFC is indirectly supporting. The new report focuses on Jambi 2 as a case study for how the IFC’s lending ends up supporting new coal development and the impact that has on local communities. According to local advocates and community members interviewed by Inclusive Development International, Jambi 2 is a project the province doesn’t want and doesn’t need—one that will exacerbate the already devastating impacts of coal development in the area, including air and water pollution and related health issues. Yet Postal Savings Bank of China—an IFC intermediary and a major coal financier in the region—has provided a credit line to Jambi 2’s developer, China Huadian.

“Ongoing coal development in Indonesia, including the Jambi 2 plant, will accelerate climate change and its catastrophic consequences,” said Novita Indri, energy campaigner at Trend Asia. “It’s a slap in the face to Indonesia, an island nation that is uniquely vulnerable to rising sea levels and already suffering from extreme weather events.”

Postal Savings Bank of China is by far the largest financier of coal developers in the IFC’s portfolio. According to data compiled by Inclusive Development International and published alongside the new report, the IFC purchased a $300 million equity stake in Postal Savings Bank in 2015 and the bank has gone on to provide 418 billion RMB ($57.3 billion) in no-strings-attached credit lines and project loans to companies developing dozens of coal-fired power plants in the region. The bank has provided these loans at a time when much of the financial industry is shifting away from coal, implicating the IFC and the World Bank Group in the last vestiges of coal finance and the devastating impacts it has for coal-affected communities and the climate. The authors of the report are calling on the IFC to leverage its influence as a major shareholder to stop Postal Savings Bank from continuing to finance coal development.

“It’s hypocritical for the IFC to allow its banking clients to finance projects like Jambi 2 and other coal development in Asia while at the same time promising to align its lending with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said Kate Geary, co-director of Recourse. “While committing to move away from coal on paper, the World Bank Group is failing to ensure that its investments aren’t  supporting coal power projects that are significant contributors to climate change and that wreak devastation on affected communities.”

These latest revelations come on the heels of reports last month that communities in Indonesia’s Banten province have lodged a formal complaint against the IFC for backing two new massive units in the Suralaya mega-coal complex. Similar complaints have been lodged against the IFC in the past, including regarding its support for coal expansion in the Philippines.

“The IFC has contributed to serious harms related to coal expansion in many countries,” added Pred. “Now it has a responsibility to repair the damage it has done and prevent future harm by requiring that all of its financial intermediary clients, including Postal Savings Bank of China, stop financing coal development immediately.”

Notes for editors:

Regarding IFC’s financial intermediary lending and “no coal” commitments

Inclusive Development International previously followed the money in the IFC’s financial-sector portfolio and published our findings in our Outsourcing Development investigative series, which exposed (among other things) the coal plants and mines the IFC was indirectly backing.

Since then, the World Bank Group has made a series of commitments designed to reform its approach to investing in financial institutions, reduce its exposure to coal and align itself with the Paris Agreement. Most prominently, in 2019 the IFC launched its Green Equity Approach, which requires financial institutions in which it holds shares to halve their coal exposure by 2025 and eliminate it from their portfolios by the end of the decade. In 2023, the IFC closed a major loophole that Inclusive Development International, Recourse and Trend Asia pointed out in the approach by updating the rules to restrict equity clients from financing any new coal projects.

However, the IFC’s flagship approach aligning its indirect lending operations with the Paris Agreement contains other loopholes and gray areas: it still allows equity clients to underwrite bonds for coal developers, and it allows clients to finance industrial projects that are powered by dedicated coal plants, a concept known as captive coal. And it is unclear how and whether the “no new coal” rule is being applied to existing clients’ corporate financing of coal developers. In fact, as our new research and report show, banks in which the IFC holds equity stakes—including Postal Savings Bank of China—have continued to provide financing to the developers of new coal projects.

Regarding our methodology

For this report, Inclusive Development International traced the International Finance Corporation’s money through financial intermediaries to new coal-fired power capacity in Asia. The full results are here.

We define new coal capacity as projects that have become operational since 2019; projects that are under construction; and projects that have been announced by developers. This data does not include projects that are listed as shelved or canceled, although developers regularly reactivate shelved projects after long periods of inactivity.

For all data on coal plants, including project names, generating capacity, development timelines and project owners, we relied on the Global Energy Monitor, which tracks energy infrastructure around the world. For data on project developers, including their current coal-generating capacities, development plans, and issuances of debt securities, we relied on the Global Coal Exit List, which the IFC also uses  to help its clients identify coal exposures in their portfolios.

All other data comes from research conducted by Inclusive Development International, Recourse and Trend Asia into corporate filings, the International Finance Corporation’s project disclosures, and site visits in Indonesia.

Source: inclusivedevelopment.net

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