Corporate land exploitation and climate change: Reflections on the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land: Page 2 of 3

Posted on 29 August 2019

for 900,000 Amazonian indigenous communities for exploitation by corporate agricultural and mining interests.

International public financial institutions continue to bankroll land grabbing in the global South. The World Bank is embarking on a new attack on the commons by pushing for the privatization of customary and public land and its sale by auction to the highest bidder. The land indicator of the Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture rankings proposes policies to facilitate access to land for agribusiness, at the expense of small farmers, pastoralists, and indigenous peoples.

Twenty-first century free trade agreements may potentially escalate land grabbing while affording agro-TNCs power to further amass land markets while clipping the power of governments to hold them to account and institute regulations, such as bans on mining and logging or the sale of toxic pesticides that harm organisms and disrupt soil balance, to protect peoples’ rights and the environment’s welfare.

Weak to non-existent regulatory mechanisms have enabled big dairy and meat companies to evade accountability despite the magnitude of their GHG footprint. According to the 2018 study done by GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the top 20 meat and dairy companies emit more GHGs than Germany, Canada, Australia, the UK or France. Meanwhile, the top five meat and dairy companies combined emit more GHGs than ExxonMobil, Shell, or BP.

The IPCC report acknowledges that “limited recognition of customary access to land and ownership of land can result in increased vulnerability” of people, communities, and organizations to climate change and weaken their capacity to adjust to its impacts. In fact, these limited customary rights to land are altogether ignored to give way to mega-projects such as dams and geothermal plants under the guise of promoting clean and renewable energy.

Worse, indigenous peoples and land defenders opposing such projects are harassed and, at times, killed. In 2018 alone, according to Global Witness, a total of 164 land defenders were killed for defending their homes, lands and natural resources from exploitation by mining, food, and logging firms. Among the top three countries most dangerous for environmental activists and Indigenous communities were the Philippines, Colombia, and India.

Towards system change

The IPCC report is yet another opportunity to stress the urgency for a whole systems approach to climate action that links the influencing factors on land abuse and overexploitation with the unequal distribution of power and resources between and within countries, and between men and women.

The current climate crisis and the consequences of the abuse of the land and other productive resources demand nothing less than a system change which cannot be achieved through piecemeal policy reforms that remain within the business-as-usual paradigm or through individual lifestyle and dietary changes.

The ultimate way out of the climate crisis is through building sustainable and equitable societies.

Reinstating the people’s sovereign power over the commanding heights of the economy is crucial to achieving ecological balance and climate justice.

In this regard, we need to end destructive industrial agriculture and instead promote agro-ecology and community-based agricultural production approaches. Governments must invest in smallholder farmers and