Fair Trade over several decades has proven its worth as a way to contribute to a just, equitable and sustainable world bringing together traders, retailers and consumers along with smallholder farmers and marginalised workers in lower income countries.

These smallholder farmers and marginalised workers are at the frontline of current and projected climate change impacts. Understanding how global trade and business is configured is central to understanding global inequalities and to establishing an effective strategy in response to the climate emergency.

Martin Rhodes in front of SECCIn just a few weeks, the UN’s COP26 is due to take place in Glasgow. This could be a key moment for the world to grasp an opportunity to work together to combat the climate emergency effectively. It is already too late to avert the effects of climate change altogether as already people across the globe are suffering the negative impact of climate change. COP26 in Glasgow is, however, an opportunity for the world to take the radical action needed to reverse climate degradation.

Farmers and workers in lower income countries have been telling us for years that they have been experiencing the effects of climate change for some time now. Higher temperatures, droughts, floods and more crop diseases ruin harvests and impact the farmers and communities who rely on them for their incomes.  For so many in lower income countries, the climate emergency is not a threat of something that might happen in the future if the world doesn’t take action – it is something that is happening now.

Those on the lowest incomes are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, just as they are also more vulnerable to so many other threats. Climate injustice reflects wider global inequality. The climate emergency will not be successfully defeated by environmental measures alone. The response to the climate emergency needs to be environmental, social and economic. There can be no climate justice without trade justice.

Fair Trade offers a radical and proven model for progressive change challenging inequalities and injustice. Fair Trade provides higher incomes and supports farmers with climate change mitigation and adaptation techniques.

Of course, the cause and responsibility of climate changes does not lie with these workers and farmers in lower income countries. It lies in carbon emissions from industrialised nations such as the UK. The world’s richest countries need to reduce emissions including emissions in imported goods. They also need to support lower income countries to make their processes cleaner rather than just refusing to trade with them.

Fair Trade is not just important because it can support mitigation and adaption. It is important because it is a model of trade and business that does not reinforce the global inequalities that fuel the climate emergency. In fact it seeks and succeeds in undermining those inequalities in power and wealth.

The climate emergency is the logical and inevitable outcome of the way business and trade has been carried out since colonialism and industrialisation. Global inequality fuels climate degradation. We cannot tackle the huge challenges of the climate emergency without fundamental change – there can be no continuing with business-as-usual driven by profit alone. Unless we challenge the inequalities engrained in global business and trade, then there can be no effective long-term response to the climate emergency.

How trade and business is done globally needs to be central to the discussions at COP26.

So we at the Scottish Fair Trade Forum along with global partners in the Fair Trade movement call for changes to the way we do trade and business to respect farmers, workers and our planet, in particular:

  1. First and foremost, products to be bought on Fair Trade terms so that farmers and workers are paid fairly and can fulfil their fundamental human right to an adequate standard of living.
  2. Trade deals, policies and measures to coherently support human rights, Fair Trade principles and climate action.
  3. Governments to ensure that response measures aimed at mitigating climate change in Scotland and in other rich countries do not have an adverse impact on lower income countries.
  4. The world’s richest countries to partner with lower income countries in their efforts to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, including through the provision of adequate climate finance.
  5. Farmers and workers from developing countries who have thus far been most affected by climate change to be fully involved in and heard at climate talks.

Read the statement from the global Fair Trade movement.

Find out more about Fair Trade, Climate Change and COP26.