Africa's farming communities to be hardest hit by climate change, why cities are vital to future of the planet, and World Bank redoubles commitment to carbon trading

Africa’s smallholders to be hardest hit by climate change

Farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to bear the brunt of an increase in extreme poverty caused by climate change. According to the United Nations-backed Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the number of people living below US$2 a day is set to increase from 35 million to 122 million by 2030 as a consequence of rising temperatures.

In its latest annual State of Food and Agriculture report, the FAO urges policymakers to remove obstacles that prevent smallholders from adapting to climate change. This is especially true for women, who make up 43% of the agricultural labour force. Previous research by FAO suggests that 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions derive from the livestock industry. Agriculture represents about 10% of gross domestic product in low and middle-income countries, and accounts for 45% of the total labour force. Farm size is a major obstacle to productivity in the world’s poorest countries, with 75% of agricultural plots (equivalent to 375m farming families) measuring less than one hectare. See Smallholders review: 500 small steps to feed the world

Cities vital to future sustainability of the planet

By 2030, three in five (60%) of people on the planet will live in cities and towns, with 90% of the growth in urban inhabitants coming from the developing world (mostly Africa and Asia). The statistics, cited in a new report by the UN Development Programme, also highlight the environmental footprint of urban areas. Cities account for more than 70% of total greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, and use 80% of the world’s energy.

Urban energy-related emissions will rise from 67% of total urban emissions to 74% by 2030, the report adds. Waste represents a big problem too. At present, the world’s 3 billion urban residents generate 1.2 kg of waste a day, equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes per year in total. On the flipside, the world economy would crash in the absence of cities, given that they generate 82% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is predicted to increase to 88% by the end of the next decade. That said, 50%-80% of urban GDP in developing countries is produced by workers in the informal economy. Despite the importance of cities, they only account for 0.51% of the world’s land surface. The 60-page report describes the UNDP’s new Sustainable Urbanization Strategy. Sustainable development in cities is crucial for achieving at least 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the UNDP states.

World Bank shows renewed enthusiasm for carbon trading

Carbon trading has never lived up to its initial promise, yet its early record has not dampened the World Bank’s enthusiasm for this market-led approach to mitigating emissions. The multilateral lender estimates in a new report that the cost of climate change mitigation could drop by one third (32%) if a genuinely international carbon trading market could be created.

The bank’s renewed confidence stems from national climate plans submitted under the Paris Agreement – more than 100 of which include provision for a carbon pricing initiative of some sort. At present, 40 national jurisdictions and more than 20 cities, states, and regions put a price on carbon. The list includes seven out of 10 of the world’s largest economies.

The coverage of carbon pricing initiatives on global emissions has increased threefold over the past decade, according to the 140-page State and Trends of Carbon Pricing report. This translates to the equivalent of around 7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or about 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In financial terms, carbon pricing initiatives generated about $26bn in revenues for governments in 2015, a 60% increase on 2014. 

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