Climate change related events are on the rise, notably in developing countries. Producers in the Global South are increasingly feeling the brunt of climate change effects, including higher temperatures, increased rain, floods, and droughts.
Research carried out by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich indicate that climate change “will have mainly negative impacts upon agricultural production, food security and economic development, especially in developing countries.”.
Fairtrade coffee producers in Latin America are currently being severely affected by the spread of the leaf rust disease which is affecting over 50% of the total coffee growing area in Central America, and within the range of 30 - 40% in some South American countries. Climate change has been identified as a key factor facilitating the outbreak. Fairtrade producers are also being affected in Africa; tea farmers in East Africa, for instance, suffered heavy frost events in early 2012 which destroyed thousands of acres of bushes.
Unfortunately, the picture of the future does not appear promising. In fact, several modeling studies predict that by 2050 the productivity of coffee, cocoa, tea or cotton will severely be affected and production in some areas might even disappear. Many farmers will need to adapt their practices to the new climatic conditions or risk losing their livelihoods.
The Fairtrade Approach
As the effects of climate change become more evident, Fairtrade producers need additional technical and financial support to confront these new challenges. Beyond the benefits that Fairtrade offers to producers (Fairtrade Minimum Price, Fairtrade Premium, strong environmental standards, etc.), the system supports basic pre-conditions that are needed to implement climate change adaptation measures such as: organizational development, environmental sustainability, financial stability, investment possibilities, and greater autonomy.
Fairtrade International acknowledges that the current benefits of the Fairtrade system are insufficient to help producers confront the effects of climate change. As a result, we have developed a climate change strategy that defines the scope, establishes Fairtrade priorities and provides a framework for action.
A global work plan for climate change has been developed, focusing on producer services (i.e. climate change standards), producer support for climate change adaptation (creating partnerships for adaptation projects), and producer-driven advocacy. The overall mission is to enable vulnerable producers to adapt to climate change and support them to mitigate the impacts, while promoting further sustainable development practices.
Fairtrade International and some member organisations have also introduced carbon reduction plans to reduce their operational impact on climate change.
How Climate Change is addressed in the Fairtrade Standards
The Fairtrade Standards promote sustainable development through best agricultural practices, which not only guide producers to adapt to climate change, but also encourage them to mitigate their impact. The environmental standards include the following practices: integrated pest management, prevention of soil erosion, improvement of soil fertility, sustainable use of water sources, sustainable waste management, prohibition of GMOs, protection of biodiversity, use of renewable energy, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to its environmental standards, Fairtrade is currently assessing and developing voluntary climate change standards to further support producers adapt to the effects of climate change and mitigate their impact. These include:
- Development of a FairCarbonCredits standard to ensure fairness in the production and trade of carbon credits, while promoting best practice in terms of climate change mitigation and empowering producers and their communities.
- A possible FairAdaptation Standard, aiming to channel greater levels of investment towards building the resilience of the most vulnerable to climate change. FairAdaptation will also promote best practice in terms of climate change adaptation while empowering producer communities.
Beyond the Standards
While Fairtrade is working to develop voluntary climate change standards to address the evolving needs of producers, a number of different efforts are underway to support producers adapt to climate change, advocate for their own needs and reduce Fairtrade operational emissions.
Producer Support Programme for Climate Change
The Fairtrade system has developed a producer-centred support programme for climate change adaptation and mitigation with a focus on small producer organizations .The main activities of the programme are:
- assessment of risks and opportunities,
- promotion of locally-identified adaptation strategies,
- sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and
- exchange of information among networks.
To implement these activities Fairtrade is working in partnerships with local and regional technical organisations with expertise on climate change. This programme is limited to regions and products identified at risk in terms of climate change. The implementation of the programme anticipates the involvement of the entire supply chain as a principle of shared responsibility and is subject to private or public.
Producer Led Advocacy
The Fairtrade Producer Networks, with the support of Fairtrade International and other members, have developed a climate change advocacy plan, focusing firstly on international climate change negotiations, and secondly on regional discussions. Priorities for climate advocacy include:
- Positioning Fairtrade as part of the response to the climate change;
- Providing a platform for producers to voice their concerns and demands;
- Advocating for more and more effective adaptation funding.
A climate change advocacy working group has been established to coordinate all advocacy activities, notably producer engagement at the UN climate change annual Conference of the Parties (COP). Producer representatives have increasingly engaged at these international conferences taking place in Cancun, Durban, and Doha. Through these opportunities, they have brought the voice of producers most affected by climate change to the highest levels of global discussion highlighting challenges, their approach, and the technical and financial support still needed.
The Fairtrade Producer Networks manage a climate change blog that includes producer stories, statements, petitions, interviews, as well as sharing information on climate change adaptation projects and best practices.
Internal Carbon Reduction Plan
Fairtrade International has developed a methodology to monitor its own carbon emissions and is implementing a strategy to reduce them. This methodology has been audited by an external party to verify its efficiency and accuracy. The strategy is targeting to reduce 5% of the emissions by 2015 and 10% by 2017. Fairtrade International will promote the use of a similar approach throughout the international Fairtrade system.
Climate Change and Fairtrade: What is it time to make the links? (PDF) – November 2011
Fairtrade’s Producer Support Programme for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (PDF) – November 2011
Recent Fairtrade News on Climate Change
Fairtrade work on Fairtrade Carbon Credits opens up for public consultation.
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Additional Links and Information
Adaptation for Smallholders to Climate Change - A public-private partnership from Cafe Direct and GIZ
Fair Climate Fund - A social venture founded by ICCO in 2009 to invest in climate projects in developing countries that produce carbon offsets after passing through globally recognized standards.
The Gold Standard Foundation - The Gold Standard is an award winning certification standard for carbon mitigation projects. The organization is collaborating with Fairtrade International to open up new opportunities for farming communities in developing countries.
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