Campaign blog

Climate Crunch Time

Eva Watkinson's picture Eva Watkinson Campaigns Engagement Manager

On 5 December, over 50,000 of you took to the streets to demand action on climate change. This was the biggest ever UK mobilisation on climate change. Thank you and well done! It was a fantastic day and sent a clear message to Gordon Brown and the ministers heading off to the most important climate change summit ever.

This week and next leaders from all over the world are meeting to agree how we are going to tackle climate change. Who is going to reduce their emissions, by how much, and the levels of funding developing countries will receive to cope with the effects.

The WaveThere has already been a bit of a furore over leaked documents that seemed to be proposing a deal where the cash would flow through the World Bank, rather than a UNFCCC fund. 

“The World Bank has a very poor record dealing with development and environmental sustainability,” said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s climate change advisor, at the Copenhagen Summit. “It’s ironic it’s being suggested as the way forward.”

 “The World Bank is not a democratic institution and in the past, has often favoured rich countries. Where does that leave the least developed countries?”

It seems it will be a busy few days in the campaign for climate justice. Watch this space for more updates and ways to make your voice heard.


Photo: Amy Scaife/ActionAid.

What a waste!

Meredith Alexander's picture Meredith Alexander Head of Trade and Corporates

Looking for a perfect present for your favourite foodie? Need a gripping read for the bookworm in your family? Look no further than Waste by Tristram Stuart.

This is the practical book you need to help reduce the food you waste at home. My favourite tip is to keep lettuce fresh longer by storing it in water, like cut flowers. The author provides plenty of inspiration too. For example, UK households waste over 350,000 tons of potatoes a year. Cutting this number in half would free up fields that could grow enough wheat to lift 1.2 million people out of hunger. That is only a small slice of the billion people living in chronic hunger, but this is just UK potato waste. Add other nations and other crops and there would be enough food for everyone.

The choices you and I make in the kitchen every day contribute to food waste, but we are really only small potatoes. It is the big players in the UK food chain, especially the supermarkets, who have the most impact. A supermarket watchdog with the power to regulate their behaviour is one of the book’s recommendations. Join ActionAid’s Who Pays? campaign to help control supermarket power. A watchdog could not only reduce food waste, but it would also help people in poor countries who supply supermarkets get a fairer deal.

You can join the campaign in an instant. If you have a bit more time, join us on December 16 in London for a free lunch made entirely from food that would otherwise go to waste.

Where? Trafalgar Square, London

When? Lunchtime, 16 December

Let us know you're coming: email

Don't believe the hype

Meredith Alexander's picture Meredith Alexander Head of Trade and Corporates

Biofuels represent the triumph of hope over experience. Faith alone seems to be the driving force behind increasing production.

In rich countries, drivers hope that biofuels will ease their guilt over driving and maybe even flying. Governments hope that biofuels will help them meet targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without increasing hunger. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both counts. Biofuel production has already made millions more people hungry and scientific evidence that biofuel use can’t help stop climate change increases every day.

Biofuel myths are just as pervasive here in India. I’ve met farmers, business people and even government officials whose hopes for biofuels aren’t matched by reality. One businessman has invested tens of thousands of rupees in growing jatropha, a biofuel plant. In return, his income has been only 3,000 rupees. Despite this massive loss, he would try again.

Why is he so convinced? He has seen some extremely high income projections for jatropha based on completely unrealistic yield assumptions. More worrying are the farmers giving over vital land to jatropha. I’ve met people who have to spend more money to buy the rice or vegetables their family need to survive because they are growing jatropha. These people can’t afford expensive mistakes. So far, none of them have seen the kind of income they have been promised. Most have had no income from jatropha at all. But the myths surrounding the plant are so strong that some are willing to keep trying.

I’m here to do research about jatropha, but hearing from these farmers is making me want to take action. I’m looking for ways that ActionAid can help by spreading accurate information about biofuels to farmers in India. When I come back, I’ll be helping plan ways to bust the biofuels myths in the UK too. Watch this space!

Some good news from the World Food Summit

Alex Wijeratna's picture Alex Wijeratna Senior campaigner, policy and campaigns

Aside from country host Silvio Berlusconi, G8 leaders appeared to shun the World Food Summit in Rome last week.

Although the gathering was largely a disappointment for the 1 billion hungry people in the world today - there were no extra resources, or an ambitious commitment to end hunger by 2025 - one bright spot was to be found. This was agreement to strengthen and open up to farmers' groups and civil society organisations an important goverance body at the UN's main food and hunger organisation, known as FAO.

Leaders agreed to strengthen one part of the FAO, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and agreed the Committee will become the foremost UN/global political platform for dealing with food security and nutrition.

The plan is historic because people most affected by the food crisis will be allowed to formally participate in this new body - such as civil society organisations representing smallholder farmers, women, fisherfolk, landless, young people, urban poor, indigenous people and food workers.

Ensuring the voice of these people is built into this global governing body by right is a major breakthrough, and something ActionAid has been campaigning for with others in Rome over this last year or so.

In fact, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, says the reform of the CFS "is the single most important achievement of the international community to the [food] crisis, along with the renewal of pledges to reinvest significantly in agriculture and rural development."

All a bit tecky but basically an excellent bit of progress for smallholder women farmers!

Response from the PM to our hunger report

Alex Wijeratna's picture Alex Wijeratna Senior campaigner, policy and campaigns

News hot off the HungerFREE campaign press for you! Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just replied to ActionAid about our new hunger scorecard report - called 'Who's really fighting hunger?' - which one of our supporters, Avis Talbot, handed in to No 10 Downing Street on World Food Day in October.

Gordon Brown's letter acknowledges the scale of the global hunger crisis - over 1bn going hungry worldwide - and says that the UK has taken the lead in pressing for a coordinated international response to the problem. He highlights that G8 donors pledged $20bn on fighting hunger at L'Aquila in July, and that the UK's contribution to that pot is £1.1bn over 3 years.

However, this is all a small start. It shows the government is beginning to take hunger seriously (thanks to your campaigning pressure), but it's clearly not enough. Some estimate that as little as $3bn of the G8 $20bn pledge is genuinely new and 'extra' money. The UN estimates that the global community needs to find $44bn a year to really eradicate hunger - four times more than what's been offered by the G8 so far.

Our global HungerFREE campaign will continue to keep the heat up in the UK and beyond. We need to keep pressing for the right level of resources, the best policies, and better governing bodies and structures to ensure a fairer food system that works for the poorest and truly delivers a HungerFREE world.

Rich countries shun hunger summit

Kim Trathen's picture Kim Trathen International Campaigner

Yesterday was the first day of the World Food Summit.  Along came the Pope, and Barosso from the EU, and most African heads of state but hang on… where were the leaders from the G8 rich countries?  Only Berlusconi turned up from the G8 countries, and the lack of donor countries was noted by many.

Team ActionAid had a fruitful day, but not without its share of frustrations too. NGOs weren’t able to get to the important rooms in the Summit to hear the speeches and meet with delegates. Instead we were cooped up in a room watching the proceedings on a TV screen! However, HungerFREE (in the form of our Americas Director, Adriano) managed to get a slot in the busy agenda of Lula, President of Brazil. 

HungerFREE wanted to congratulate Brazil for scoring number 1 in our scorecard report which we launched a month ago. Because of strong political will, Brazil in the last 6 years has cut child malnutrition by a staggering 73%, which contributed to a drop in child mortality of 45%. This shows what can be done when you put your mind and money to it. Our report was called 'who's really fighting hunger?' – so we thought it was appropriate to give Lula a pair of HungerFREE boxing gloves. He seemed quite tickled with them – and put them on to pose for a photo.

Lula gets his HungerFREE boxing gloves

We also met with the French Minister to hand over the Peuples Solidaires/ActionAid/Avaaz petition which has now been signed by 170,000 people calling for an end to the hunger scandal. More handovers to other G8 countries to organise today so time to be off.

(Photo of President Lula with his boxing gloves: ©FAO/Rocco Rorandelli.)