Campaign blog

Join The Wave

Eva Watkinson's picture Eva Watkinson Campaigns Engagement Manager

On Saturday 5 December, ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Copenhagen, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life will flow through the streets of London and Glasgow to demonstrate to the UK government their support for a fair and safe climate future for all.

The Wave

Where? Central London and Glasgow

When? 5 December Blue

How do I get there? Cheap travel from around the UK

Any other questions?

Let us know you're coming: email

More and more in our work around the world ActionAid is seeing the effects of climate change. The people who are least responsible, small-scale farmers in developing countries, are bearing the brunt. Last month our climate debt agents made the point that developing countries are in urgent need of funds to tackle climate change.

To avoid the worst we have to start reducing our carbon emissions, fast. As world leaders meet in Copenhagen we need to push them to act. Join ActionAid supporters and thousands of others and be part of ensuring a safe climate future for all.

Less self-conscious supporters might also want to join in the synchronised dance organised by ActionAid's youth team... 

See you there!

The Wave is organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.


Toxic plants fail to feed people

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

Assam in North East India is a green and fertile land. Travelling through it now I am seeing a profusion of healthy crops including the tea this region is famous for. The rice fields are turning from green to gold as the staple food crop matures.

I’ve only heard of one crop that isn’t thriving: jatropha. Jatropha is toxic to people and animals. It originates in Latin America. Jatropha has been brought here because its seeds have a high oil content. This oil is refined to make biodiesel, which can then be blended with regular diesel to fuel cars, tractors and other machines.

It sounds very green, but the reality is not so pretty. Scientists originally hoped using biofuels like jatropha would reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to using petrol. If that were true, biofuels would be a way to fight climate change. Sadly, scientists have realised that biofuels can actually cause higher emissions if you take their whole lifecycle into account. Not everyone is listening to the science, or taking into consideration the fact that biofuels are increasing hunger by driving up food prices. Governments, including ours in the UK and the one in India, are still pushing this supposed solution.

The government of India is trying to get farmers here to grow jatropha. But there is another problem. Assam contains many rivers, including the mighty Bramaputra. All this water is great for the rice fields. But jatropha is adapted to drier climates. North East India is too wet for it, and as a result jatropha plants here don’t produce as many seeds. In fact, the maximum yield here is less than half that found in other places.

Jatropha is poisonous, so the only way it can provide food is if you sell the seeds to buy what you need. Obviously the fewer seeds, the less you earn, and the less you can feed your family. In Assam, it seems a family relying on jatropha would be very hungry indeed. A government scientist researching jatropha in the area confirmed that he thinks large scale jatropha farming here would create very low incomes. I’m off to visit some villages here to see what the farmers themselves have to say.

Financial transaction tax?

Martin Hearson's picture Martin Hearson Tax Justice Campaign Manager

Gordon Brown has just given a speech, in which he’s hinted at a financial transaction tax – a small levy on financial transactions like currency trading. This is good news if it’s true, but only part of the tax picture.

Developing countries are suffering from the financial crisis, with shortfalls in government revenue amounting to billions of dollars. In addition, they need $200 billion each year for climate adaptation and mitigation.

A financial transaction tax is part of the solution, along with measures to help developing countries retain the revenues they lose through tax evasion in tax havens, which are still to come on the G20 agenda today.

Joining the dots

Martin Hearson's picture Martin Hearson Tax Justice Campaign Manager

G20 finance ministers are discussing financial regulation, climate finance for developing countries and tax havens.  But will they make the connection between the three?

Lax financial regulation in tax havens was a direct contributor to the banking crisis; and tax havens cost developing countries tens of billions of pounds every year in tax evasion.

At St Andrews, the G20 is discussing how to deliver on their promise, made at the London summit in April on the personal initiative of Gordon Brown, to find a way for developing countries to benefit from the tax haven crackdown.

Delivering on that commitment at St Andrew's today with a truly multilateral deal on tax information exchange will allow developing countries to claw back desperately needed money to fund schools, hospitals and poverty relief.

G20 Finance Ministers break promise to developing countries

Martin Hearson's picture Martin Hearson Tax Justice Campaign Manager

At the G20 meeting, Finance Ministers have failed to keep the promise they made to developing countries in April.

At the London summit in April, the G20 made a commitment to deliver proposals on tax havens to benefit developing countries by the end of 2009. But today's communiqué merely suggests "the possible use of a multilateral instrument" for this purpose. This is a real disappointment. The communiqué is vague and unsubstantiated and leaves developing nations out in the cold as far as tackling tax evasion is concerned.

We now have a two two-tier system: tax havens must exchange information with rich countries or face the threat of powerful sanctions, but there is no pressure on them to do the same with poorer nations, which suffer the most from tax evasion.

The G20 promised that developing countries would not be left out of the tax haven crackdown, and today was their last chance. They've gone back on that promise - at least for now.

We will continue to push for a better outcome in 2010.

More production and less consumption... or political will

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

I was challenged last week to consider whether production or consumption is responsible for the mess we are making of food security. I was to speak on this topic at The Bigger Picture.

Here’s what I said:

"The future of farming terrifies me. Climate change will devastate rain-fed agriculture in Africa and give pests new ranges to colonise. Our current overconsumption of water is using up fresh water supplies, making climate change even harder to cope with. Minable supplies of phosphorous, one of the three key elements used in fertiliser, will run out this century. And we have to tackle all these problems while increasing production in response to population growth.

"But it is food security now that keeps me awake at night. Today, a billion people will not get enough to eat. And this isn’t just about skipping meals. Hunger kills. It kills a child every ten seconds. From simple lack of food.

"There are some who think this is necessary - more people creates hunger so fewer people... Dress it up however they will, it is morally abhorrent. It is also wrong. There are enough food supplies for every woman, man and child to have 2,800 calories a day. Our current consumption patterns are clearly not working either.

"So production and consumption both are going wrong. But to me, the real problem is will. We know how to increase agricultural production sustainably. We can even farm in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We don’t have to divert food crops into use for biofuels- a wasteful consumption that doesn’t even help stop climate change. These are just a few examples of the myriad of ways we could create real food security.

"Our global food system- production and consumption- is the result of political choices. These choices benefit powerful actors- big business, rich elites. The choices will only change if we join together to challenge them.

"So what choices would I make? Firstly, increased investment in small holder farmers in developing countries would enable the world’s poorest farmers to feed themselves. Secondly, there needs to be good deal at Copenhagen or dangerous climate change will undermine food security even more. Finally, the rules and prices that govern consumers’ choices must be shifted to make it easier for all of to make sustainable choices."