The good news about climate change?

Climate Change, Food & livelihoods, Food security, In the news

This week’s UN summit on climate change was, in many ways, a missed opportunity to prevent suffering and hunger. This is not good news, but the work does not stop here. Catherine Meredith reviews what has been achieved and takes a look at all the ways in which Oxfam is working on climate change from programme implementation to research and advocacy.

On Tuesday world leaders met in New York for the UN Climate Summit. The commitments of politicians and new public-private initiatives fell short of what’s needed to prevent a global temperature rise of more than 2C, and did not meet the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who took part in the People’s Climate March on Sunday.

So are there any positives to take away?

Oxfam and others are contributing to tackling climate changeOxfam welcomes just over $1.3 billion in new pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – although a mammoth $12.7 billion is still needed. The willingness of major heads of state to meet and discuss climate change for the first time since Copenhagen is also encouraging,
as is the launch of the We Mean Business low carbon private sector coalition, and the Africa Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture’s plans to support several million smallholder farmers. 

Beyond this, there are many ways in which Oxfam and others are contributing to tackling climate change outside of UN conferences. Here’s a quick overview of how we are dealing with climate change issues through our programmes, research and advocacy. 

Climate adaptation in our programmes 

Ipaishe inspects her field of wheat. Credit Annie Bungeroth/Oxfam

We’re supporting complex adaptation projects around the world – from early warning systems in the Philippines, to assessingthe vulnerabilities of fig crops in Armenia, to understanding the impacts of soil salinisation in Myanmar.
In Ethiopia our staff are working collaboratively with the national government using the local adaptive capacity framework to develop policies on issues like disaster risk management and building a Climate Resilient Green Economy

In Zimbabwe and Thailand where rain patterns have become increasingly erratic, we have supported irrigation projects which have vastly improved the crop yields and incomes of small scale farmers. And we’re also looking at adaptation on a larger scale and working in
consortiums to inform and influence for better adaptation (see the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions programme and the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance).

Research into the impacts of climate change

Our (worrying) research into the impacts of climate change on the coffee sector in Uganda and Central America shows the potentially devastating impact of rising temperatures on coffee crops and livelihoods. It’s likely that many other staple food crops will be affected in different
ways. By carrying out this kind of research we provide evidence and recommendations which can be used by local and national decision makers to inform their own flexible adaptation plans.

Coffee in Uganda. Credit: James Ewen / Oxfam GB

There’s a common theme of food insecurity running throughout our work, evidenced by what our partners and the communities they work with are experiencing. That’s why we’ve been conducting research, with key partners, to help us understand the issues. These include: our food price volatility project with the Institute of Development Studies; our research with the University of Oxford’s Young Live’s Programme on the impact of weather shocks on child stunting, and research with their Environmental Change Institute looking at the impacts of extreme weather events on food security, specifically in Russia, Pakistan, East Africa and the Philippines. 

Influencing others for climate change mitigation

Brands belonging to the Big 10 food and beverage companies targeted in the Behind the Brands campaign.

We’re also influencing on a grand scale, and not just in politics. Our Behind the Brands campaign is leveraging the power of consumers to call on the 10 biggest food and beverage companies to take responsibility for the emissions in their supply chains. Over the last 18 months, over 640,000 people have spoken up as part of the campaign, with General Mills and Kellogg making significant new commitments for mitigating climate change.  

As well as these activities we’re advocating for concerted action at different levels of government. We’re calling for the EU to agree targets to help cut emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030. Oxfam argues that this can be done in a way which keeps energy affordable for Europe in the long term and tackles climate change – which will have most impact on the poorest people around the world. 

Our policy recommendations are supported by research, practical on the ground experience and commitment to social justice. Our ‘doughnut’ research provides a framework for a sustainable future in which humanity lives within the limits of planetary boundaries while providing a social foundation. We recently published The Scottish Doughnut which shows how Scottish society is faring against these limits and offers a point of reference for civil society and government discussion, look out for more national doughnut papers to follow soon.

The good news amidst the bad

“the more we delay the more we will pay in lives and money.”The good news is that Oxfam and myriad other organisations and individuals continue to advocate for mitigation and adaptation. We are supporting communities around the world to adapt sustainably, and on this site we’re sharing our knowledge of what works. The public support for Sunday’s Climate March, with over 300,000 people on the streets of New York alone, demonstrates the strong desire for global action from the world’s

However, the Climate Summit has achieved only a partial and piecemeal response and we need further urgent action from world leaders and the private sector to halt climate change in its tracks. As Ban Ki-moon has said “the more we delay the more we will pay in lives and money.”
Sooner rather than later politicians must wake up and join us.

Read more

• Browse 194 climate change programme learning, policy and research publications
• Read more climate change blogs
• Join our Behind the Brands campaign


  1. Campaigners at the London People’s Climate March on 21 September 2014. Credit: Sara Johnson / Oxfam
  2. In Zimbabwe Ipaishe Masvingise inspects her field of wheat, watered by the new Ruti irrigation system which Oxfam helped set up. Credit: Annie Bungeroth / Oxfam
  3. Freshly picked coffee beans in Uganda. Credit: James Ewen / Oxfam 

Author: Catherine Meredith
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.