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Hunger Strike: The climate and food vulnerability index (August 2019)


Top 10 hungriest countries contribute just 0.08% of global CO2 – new report

  • Climate & Food Vulnerability Index shows 10 most food insecure countries emit less than half a tonne of CO2 per person
  • Burundi is the world's most food insecure and smallest per capita emitter
  • The average Briton generates as much CO2 as 212 Burundians
  • IPCC blockers Russia, USA and Saudi some of the worst offenders

As scientists of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meet in Geneva this week to publish their Special Report on Climate Change and Land (August 8), a new report by the development charity Christian Aid shows that climate change is having a disproportionate impact on the food systems of the country’s least responsible for causing the climate crisis.

The IPCC is expected to show how climate change will affect global food supply, spiking prices and reducing nutrition. It is also likely to recommend that countries will need to drastically cut emissions if global food security is to be protected.

Christian Aid’s new report Hunger Strike: The Climate & Food Vulnerability Index shows that the top 10 most food insecure countries all generate less than half a tonne of CO2 per person and just 0.08% of global carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the countries that have been blocking the adoption of recent IPCC science reports at UN meetings: Russia (12.2 tonnes), the USA (15.7) and Saudi Arabia (19.4) all have huge per capita carbon footprints.

Topping the Index is Burundi, which, perversely, also happens be the country with the lowest CO2 per capita emissions, a tiny 0.027 tonnes. This is so low it is often rounded to zero. This means that the average Russian generates the same CO2 as 454 Burundians, an American 581 and a Saudi 719. In the UK an average Briton generates the same CO2 as 212 Burundians.

Philip Galgallo, Christian Aid’s Country Director for Burundi, said: “Burundi is a living testament to the injustice of the climate crisis. Despite producing almost no carbon emissions, we find ourselves on the front line of climate change, suffering from higher temperatures, lower crop yields and increasingly unreliable rains.

“In a just world our problems would be something we could address ourselves. But because we haven’t caused this climate breakdown, we alone cannot solve it. We need richer, more polluting, countries to cut their emissions rapidly if we’re going to hold back the ravages of climate change and reverse its affects. Because of the global nature of climate change this is an opportunity for the world to act together in solidarity and fairness.

“We have great potential for clean energy but we need funding and support to unlock it. We have renewable resources of wind and solar with which we can power our development but we don’t have the finances or technology to harness them. “It is vital that developed country governments heed the warnings of the UN scientists and cut their emissions urgently. The lives of millions of the poorest people demand that they do.”

Report author Dr Katherine Kramer, Christian Aid’s Global Climate Lead, said although personal actions were important to drive down emissions, it was action from Governments and big business that needed to happen the most.

“This report outlines in stark details the global inequality of climate change and how it is the most vulnerable that are contributing least to the problem and suffering the most.

“That is why we need to see rapid and radical emissions reductions in richer, high emitting countries, ending the fossil-fuelled era forever. Additionally, these countries need to provide financial support and new technology to help poorer countries to develop cleanly and become resilient to existing and future climate impacts.”

Dr Doreen Stabinsky, Professor of Global Environmental Politics at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, said: “Climate change poses enormous threats to our ability to feed ourselves. The poorest and most vulnerable are currently suffering the most from the impacts on food production and already many across the world are migrating from their homes in order to be able to feed their families.

“These are warning signals that all of us ignore at our peril, for agriculture ultimately is one of the most threatened of our economic sectors and most fundamental for the healthy functioning of our societies and our communities. Both the Christian Aid report and the upcoming IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land begin to make clear how serious a threat this is, and how urgently we need to act.”

Only last month a study in Lancet Planetary Health showed that over the next 30 years, climate change combined with increasing carbon dioxide could significantly reduce the availability of critical nutrients like protein, iron, and zinc.

One of the authors of that study, Dr Samuel Myers, Principal Research Scientist at Harvard University’s Department of Environmental Health, said: “Our research shows that rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are reducing the nutritional quality of the food we eat and that the most vulnerable people to these impacts are those least responsible for rising global CO2 concentrations. From this, and other, research, what is quite clear is that climate change is not only a global health crisis, it is a moral crisis.”