Fairtrade Carbon Credits

While people in the rural communities served by Fairtrade have contributed very little to climate change, they are feeling the brunt of its impact. Wildly fluctuating temperature and rainfall, unpredictable seasons and an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes are now part of everyday life for farmers. Rural communities have been asking for more support to fight the effects of climate change.

Fairtrade International has teamed up with the Gold Standard and producer groups to develop the Fairtrade Climate Standard. Through projects such as reforestation or energy efficient cookstoves, vulnerable communities can reduce emissions and become eligible for carbon credits while also strengthening themselves against the effects of climate change.

Climate Change Facts

  • Twelve million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone - affecting more than one billion people.
  • Coffee, the most sold Fairtrade product, is particularly sensitive to changes in temperature. With a two degree rise, coffee bushes yield far less coffee. And with a three degree rise in temperature, the coffee bushes would struggle to even survive.
  • Projects to reduce greenhouse gases play an important part in tackling climate change. Switching to an energy efficient cook stove can reduce CO² emissions by 70% compared to cooking over an open fire. Smoke is reduced by 90%, meaning less respiratory diseases for women who do the majority of the cooking.

The Benefits of Fairtrade Carbon Credits for Producers

“Every Fairtrade Carbon Credit means one less tonne of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. If climate change continues unchecked, we won’t be able to grow tea in Kenya. I urge businesses to buy Fairtrade Carbon Credits so farmers can become more resilient.” Victor Biwot, Operations Manager at Sireet Fairtrade tea cooperative in Kenya

Carbon credits in essence are tonnes of carbon dioxide that have been prevented from entering or have been removed from the atmosphere. Companies can purchase credits to take responsibility for the emissions they produce.

If a company purchases carbon credits on Fairtrade terms, they provide smallholders and rural communities with access to the climate finance generated, and over time a greater role in the design and management of the project.

Producer benefits include:

  • Stronger, more resilient communities, through implementing the project itself, such as cleaner air and less time spent collecting fire wood thanks to energy efficient cookstoves, or reduced soil erosion and flooding from tree planting.
  • A minimum price for the credits generated, meaning producers can be sure the average costs of projects will be covered.
  • The Fairtrade Premium, to be invested in projects to adapt to climate change, such as improving soil health or using drought resistant crop varieties. This is vital to ensure they and their communities can deal with the effects of the changing climate.
  • Increased knowledge and capacity on climate change. The Fairtrade Climate Standard encourages producers to participate in developing the carbon projects and increase their involvement and expertise over time, creating real ownership for the communities involved.

Producers road-testing the Fairtrade Climate Standard

Click on the link to learn how Fairtrade farmers are confronting a changing climate.

To test the effectiveness of the Climate Standard, we are road testing a number of projects in different countries. The aim is for these to become Fairtrade certified by mid-2016.

In Africa, deforestation for firewood for cooking is a big problem which also contributes to climate change. In Ethiopia the Fairtrade coffee farming communities of the Oromia co-operative are busy making cookstoves and distributing them, in order to generate carbon credits from reduced emissions. Read more here.

Elsewhere, in Lesotho, Atmosfair are running a project with communities to generate carbon credits from fuel efficient cookstoves. Read more here. 

The Fairtrade Climate Standard & Eligible Carbon Credit Projects

The Fairtrade Climate Standard is open to all small-scale organized groups under Fairtrade’s geographic scope. An organization developing carbon projects does not need to already be Fairtrade certified to apply.

Projects eligible for generating Fairtrade Carbon Credits fall into three categories:

  • Renewable energy projects, such as: solar thermal heating/electricity, solar photovoltaic, wind energy, hydropower, biogas heating/electricity.
  • Energy efficiency projects , such as improved cookstoves, water filtration/purification systems, energy saving lamps/ fluorescent lamps.
  • Forestry projects, such as: planting trees or replanting trees in a previously forested area.

On average each project is expected to generate around 25,000 Fairtrade carbon credits per year. The length of the projects depends on the type of project – energy projects may run for 7 to 10 years, forestry projects may run for 30-40 years.

*The Fairtrade Climate Standard does not cover Hired Labour or contract production set-ups. See our Standards page to learn more and download the complete Climate Standard.

Fairtrade and The Gold Standard

Gold Standard is Fairtrade’s partner in developing and implementing the Fairtrade Climate Standard and Fairtrade Carbon Credits. The Fairtrade Climate Standard is an add-on standard to Gold Standard certification of carbon emissions reductions and sustainable development benefits

Gold Standard is an internationally recognized organization with expertise in climate and development projects.  Gold Standard supports energy, land use based and waste management projects that focus on co-benefits such as environmental benefits and local stakeholder involvement. Read more at www.goldstandard.org

Buying Fairtrade Carbon Credits

Fairtrade Carbon Credits are initially being rolled out in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Any retailer, business, organization, civil society group or individual can purchase Fairtrade Carbon Credits, to take positive climate action and play their part in climate justice.

Businesses who source over 1,000 carbon credits per year (Fairtrade or a combination of certifications) will be required to assess their carbon footprint, put in place a carbon reduction plan, and then continually increase the amount of the carbon credits they buy as Fairtrade year on year to comply with the Standard.

Businesses and organizations will be able to communicate their commitment to purchase Fairtrade Carbon Credits on corporate communications and focused consumer communication using the Fairtrade Carbon Credits lock-up.

For more information please contact your local Fairtrade organization.

Recent Fairtrade News on Fairtrade and Climate Change


Mexican Coffee Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

21 April 2016

Coffee farmers in Mexico are recovering from leaf rust disease and increasing their resilience to climate change thanks to a project by Fairtrade, CLAC and Lidl Germany.


Fighting coffee rust in Latin America

10 December 2015

Climate change is already severely impacting the coffee sector and affecting Fairtrade producers worldwide. Coffee diseases have increased in intensity and are found in areas and altitudes where they haven’t been seen before.


Leading businesses join Fairtrade and Gold Standard in the fight against climate change

04 December 2015

Some of Europe’s biggest businesses are among the first companies to commit to buying the innovative Fairtrade Carbon Credits which were launched during the UN climate change talks in Paris today.

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