Illustration of a farmer holding a letter and another holding a spade with the words 'politicians, be fair with your climate promise'

‘Keep your promises’ – COP26 climate plea from 1.8 million Fairtrade farmers, in open letter to world leaders

  • Open letter from Fairtrade producers urges rich nations to invest in those battling to grow the world’s food in the face of climate breakdown
  • Members of the public are invited to show solidarity with farmers by signing a petition urging governments to act now

An open letter sent on behalf of 1.8 million Fairtrade farmers and agricultural workers worldwide, ahead of COP26, is urging world leaders to keep their promise to provide $100 billion in annual finance to low-income nations disproportionately hit by the climate crisis.

Published today (October 8), the letter criticises rich nations most responsible for climate change for failing to honour their pledges to cut their emissions and provide proper support to farmers suffering the worst effects of climate breakdown.

Signed by representatives of Fairtrade producer networks in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the letter warns governments that their lack of action is deepening poverty, and threatening farmers’ livelihoods and global food supplies.

Titled ‘Be fair with your climate promise,’ the letter says: “We grow the food eaten at the tables of people all around the world, as well as other essential produce. But our ability to do so has been badly damaged by the reckless harm done to our environment from years of broken promises concerning the climate crisis.

“You promised to cut the emissions that drive extreme weather, which dry up our fields one day and flood them the next. But emissions are increasing dangerously while your ambition remains too low. You promised to provide climate finance, to help us keep growing food despite the changing weather. But next to nothing is reaching us. You promised to change business from exploiter to partner. But shareholders earn billions while millions of farmers earn less than a dollar a day.”

Eighty percent of the world’s food comes from 500 million family farms. Fairtrade farmers in climate-vulnerable countries are already using their expertise to deliver climate solutions, by adapting to changing weather patterns, pursuing greener agricultural methods and cutting on-farm emissions. However, it is not enough: financial support is critical, they say.

A delegation of Fairtrade farmers from Latin America, Africa and Asia will attend the COP26 summit in Glasgow, next month, to deliver the letter in person. In their message, farmers call on world leaders to act in four urgent areas.

  • First, they urge rich nations to keep their promise on the $100bn climate finance. “It needs to reach farmers and workers directly, so that we can plant trees, introduce more resilient crops, ready ourselves for the coming storm – and continue to grow the world’s food,” says the letter.
  • Second, they tell leaders: “Be honest about your carbon emissions, and have the courage to cut them back in line with the scientific advice.” This includes ensuring Net Zero commitments include targets and policies that will reduce emissions from imported goods, not just countries’ domestic emissions.
  • Next, the letter calls on governments to end “high-carbon trade”. Instead, they should pursue trade deals that drive trade in fair, low-carbon produce, and that help farmers and businesses who invest in clean energy and climate solutions, the letter states.
  • Finally, world leaders are challenged to strengthen business rules on environmental protection – so that businesses are encouraged to invest in sustainable supply chains, pay fair prices to farmers, and take ownership of the environmental issues in their supply chains. However, this must happen in a way that doesn’t leave farmers paying the bill.

Fairtrade Africa’s Commercial Director, Kate Nkatha Ochieng’, who is part of the Fairtrade delegation representing farmers at COP26 in Glasgow, commented: “Farming communities who have cared for their local eco-systems for generations know exactly why the climate crisis really is a crisis. Yet millions are unable to earn enough to adapt to real threats climate change poses for lives and livelihoods. The fight against climate change is about human rights and ensuring justice for vulnerable communities impacted. Fairtrade farmers have implemented climate mitigation and adaption solutions within their reach – it is not enough to reverse the effects on their farms and deliver sustainable livelihoods for their families. 

“World leaders must pay attention to this urgent call for action from Fairtrade farmers. For generations, the exploitation of people and planet has caused extreme global inequality and a climate emergency. Wealthy nations must deliver on their promise to invest in tackling climate change right now. After decades of all-talk-and-no-action, the UN COP26 is our last best chance to change our collective fate and prioritise farming communities already living with the harsh effects of climate change.”

Fairtrade is mobilising ethical shoppers across the world to support the farmers’ open letter and call for action by signing a global petition, available on Fairtrade’s online COP26 campaign hub. Thousands of people have already added their name to the petition in solidarity with the farmers.

The letter and petition are part of Fairtrade’s global Be Fair With Your Climate Promise campaign to press world leaders listen to the needs, experiences and expertise of farmers and workers at the forefront of the climate emergency. The campaign is a critical call for action at a time when systemic change in trade is not happening quickly enough.

Recent months have seen crops hit hard by extreme weather including devastating floods in Uganda and Nigeria, drought in Madagascar and locust invasions across the African continent. This year, Africa saw its hottest January and June ever, while in Central America last November, Hurricanes Eta and Iota caused over $2 billion dollars’ worth of damage in Honduras alone, with Fairtrade farmers badly affected.

  • Sign the petition, available on Fairtrade’s online COP26 campaign hub.
  • For further information or for interviews, contact Tomilola Ajayi, Senior Media and Communications Manager:

Caption: Illustration by Monica Obaga, 2021; commissioned by Fairtrade.

Notes to editors

About Fairtrade

Fairtrade changes the way trade works by putting farmers and workers first. That means better prices, decent working conditions and more trade power for small-scale producers. Leading by example, Fairtrade has producers represented in 50% of its governance. Fairtrade International is an independent non-profit organization representing 1.8 million farmers and workers worldwide. It owns the FAIRTRADE Mark, a registered trademark appearing on more than 30,000 products, which is the most recognised and trusted sustainability label in the world. Fairtrade International and its member organisations collaborate with businesses, engage shoppers, activate civil society, and enable producers to take control in order to bring about a fair, sustainable future — a future rooted in social justice.