Fair Trade and the climate emergency

By Cara Lewis

Cara Lewis

Cara Lewis of Bristol Fair Trade Network explains in this blog post how the fairness delivered by Bristol citizens choosing to buy Fair Trade products extends to the way the climate crisis is addressed across the globe. Some of the countries most affected by climate change are where Fair Trade producers are located.

With our planet getting hotter and more extreme weather being felt across the globe, climate change is a problem we can no longer ignore, no matter where we live. There is no escaping this issue. The solution? Action.

With this in mind, ‘Fair Trade and the Climate Emergency’ felt like a pressing theme for October’s Bristol Fair Trade Social. It took place on a chilly evening at Wapping Wharf, attracting new and familiar faces.

We kicked the evening off by discussing some icebreaker facts – apt in their name not only for helping guests get to know each other, but also for the very real and gloomy things they tell us about our climate. For example, did you know that Indonesia will move its capital city as its current one is sinking? It is facts like this that emphasise that the climate crisis is very much here, and we are living it in the now.

Declarations of a climate emergency are finally putting an end to climate change denial; it’s a call to action, and is often paired with a commitment to carbon neutrality. Many Bristol institutions have been early to declare and bold in making commitments: In 2018 the City Council became the first UK local authority to make a declaration, and set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2030. The University of Bristol was the first university in the UK to declare a climate emergency, while Bristol’s two NHS Trusts and major venues such as We the Curious, Colston Hall and others have been the first in their fields to follow suit.

As the official Fair Trade group of a city with sustainability and environmental activism at its heart, we feel it’s important that Bristol Fair Trade Network joins the call to action. At our October social we officially announced that we are making a declaration of a climate emergency (we believe we are the first Fairtrade City campaign group to do so), backing the declaration of the City Council and others since. We support the prioritisation of action against the climate emergency in the city, and will work to highlight the role of Fair Trade in mitigating its effects on small-scale farmers worldwide.

All over the world, climate protesters are valiantly bringing whole cities to a standstill, but it’s easy to feel small and wonder what part we as individuals can play in our everyday lives. Movements like Fair Trade are important in offering solutions both directly for those affected by a changing climate, and also for people wanting to make climate-friendly changes to the way they live their lives.

The countries most affected by climate change are countries where many of our Fair Trade producers are, such as Nicaragua, The Philippines and Bangladesh. This is down to their vulnerable location, with rising sea levels and more extreme weather events hitting these places the hardest, and also because they can’t invest in defence in the same way developed countries – those primarily responsible for causing climate change – can.

Prevention and mitigation strategies are at the heart of Fair Trade environmental standards, with farmers making sustainable agriculture and climate change adaption part of their farm management. Added to this, the increased revenue from receiving a minimum price acts as a safety net, giving farmers much needed finances to respond to the effect of climate change, while the Fair Trade premium is often invested in long term mitigation projects.

Off the farm, through the Fair Trade movement, farmers across Latin America, Asia and Africa can share knowledge and training opportunities, reacting to climate-related disasters. Importantly, Fair Trade is also a vehicle for change that brings the voice of farmers to the table in international discussions on climate, ensuring that they are heard and putting climate justice into action.

So, what can we do locally? It is important to note that consuming Fair Trade and consuming local produce go hand-in-hand. Bristol Fair Trade is working to unite Fair and Local, helping everyone support Fair Trade through the local economy. We encourage everyone to buy local where you can and when you can’t, choose Fair Trade! By doing so, you can shape someone else’s local world, helping small-scale farmers tackle the climate emergency and earn a decent living. And it is possible to support Fair and Local at the same time: take a look at the South West Fair Trade directory of businesses for inspiration of where you can shop and services you can use.

If you work in a business or organisation, do a quick audit of your kitchen or hot drinks point and look for recognised Fair Trade logos. If they are not there, try to speak to the person in charge of ordering, and encourage them to get them in.

During November and December, as part of Bristol’s bid to be a Gold Sustainable Food City, Pukka Herbs and Wogan Coffee are offering the chance to win a selection of teas and coffee for any organisations that sign up to any of the ‘Food Equality’ actions on the Going for Gold website, including the Fair Trade audit action. We challenge everyone to go out and tell their friends, colleagues and family how Fair Trade is part of the solution to tackling the climate emergency, and help us create real impact in Bristol together.

Cara Lewis is a postgraduate student studying Marketing and Communications at the University of the West of England. Inspired by her time volunteering with the Bristol Fair Trade Network, assisting the annual Nicaraguan Fairtrade producer visit, she is now Communications Assistant for the Network.

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