Climate Change and the Coffee Industry: The International Coffee Organization Considers That Climate Change Will Be One of the Most Important Factors Affecting Future Global Coffee Production, with Smallholders the Most Vulnerable Group

International Trade Forum, January-March 2010 | Go to article overview

Climate Change and the Coffee Industry: The International Coffee Organization Considers That Climate Change Will Be One of the Most Important Factors Affecting Future Global Coffee Production, with Smallholders the Most Vulnerable Group


Rising temperatures may damage or render unviable some producing areas, making it necessary to identify alternative crops. Incidences of pests and diseases will increase. The need for irrigation would increase pressure on both scarce water resources and costs of production. The industry must adapt and also reduce its own contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

What should be the priorities for action?

Short-term technical solutions will vary by country and between areas. Many farmers and local stakeholders who are already experiencing climate change have innovative ideas on adaptation and mitigation, and external assistance should build on these local approaches.

Measures to reduce GHG emissions are equally important but it is proving difficult for farmers to gain carbon offset credits, mostly because projects to reduce GHG emissions must demonstrate their "additionality", i.e., coffee farms have to prove that they create GHG savings that are additional to anything that might happen anyway. To date, agri-based offsets are not widespread.

Long-term strategies at the production level are essential, such as improving framework conditions for adaptation and building capacities, including financing mechanisms. Improving access to information, including market and technological information, and investing in social capital are also important.

For more information, visit www.ico.org and search for "climate change". The coffee industry is in the preliminary stages of transforming strategy into action and short-term solutions deserve priority.

Towards carbon-neutral coffee

Supermarket chains, other retailers and consumer organizations are urging the coffee distribution chain to achieve a carbon-neutral product footprint, i.e., that carbon emissions produced by the coffee chain are offset by carbon-reducing activities. However, credits generated through agricultural practices, like coffee production, are not eligible under the mandatory carbon market, including the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The World Bank's Carbon Finance Unit website offers detailed, practical information at http://go.worldbank.org/gIGUMTMED0

Voluntary offset credits require less documentation and financial investment than mandatory CDM markets and offer better options for coffee growers. …

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