writes Kieran O’Brien from CAFOD

Climate change has an impact upon the lives of billions of people throughout the world. Its effects are wide-reaching and complex. Small-holder farmers in particular are suffering from the impacts of dramatic climate events such as severe storms, drought and flooding; while unpredictable weather patterns have impacted on harvests, preventing farmers from feeding themselves and undermining their livelihoods. It has also increased pressure on water resources in many already drought-stricken regions and, in some areas, led to intensifying competition for natural resources and violent conflict.

CAFOD has worked for 50 years through grassroots organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America to tackle poverty and injustice. In that time we have seen more and more examples of how communities already facing the problems of poverty have had their situations made even worse by changes in climate and environmental damage. These impacts are particularly evident in those communities that rely on agriculture to feed themselves and make a living.

We’ve carried out research into poor people’s priorities and perspectives for development. The research showed that the impacts of climate change, such as a trend to increasing natural disasters, are one of the most important factors that keep people in poverty. These new factors are in addition to a range of inequalities that have existed for decades. As a result, the wellbeing of many people in poverty has deteriorated over the last 15 years.

One of the main priorities expressed by the people we interviewed for the research was to have employment or access to assets such as livestock and land, which allows them to build viable and sustainable livelihoods. But the effects of climate change have harmed the livelihoods of many small-scale farmers, hindering their ability to earn a living and trapping them in poverty. Unless action is taken to help them adapt to climate change and to tackle its root causes, their chance of building viable livelihoods will diminish even further in the future.

We have to remember that it is the small-scale farmers from across the globe that have contributed very little towards climate change, yet are suffering disproportionately from many of its associated consequences. That is why in CAFOD we see climate change as a justice issue; we who are responsible for the causes of climate change also have a responsibility for the solution.  So it falls to developed countries, such as Wales, who bear the greatest responsibility to show leadership.

Whilst there are positive signs that the Welsh Government is taking climate change seriously, there is still room from improvement. The government target for a 40% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions in Wales by 2020 is an ambitious one, but one that we must hold our government to account, as this outlines the total impact from Wales on the world. As poor communities from across the globe struggle with the affects of climate change, meeting these targets is our moral obligation in Wales.

Read CAFOD’s new report on Climate Change What have we done? How the changing climate is hitting the poorest hardest