Climate Change

This borehole dried up during a drought that struck the Mabale Growers Tea Factory in Uganda

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.

Click the image to learn more about Fairtrade Climate Heroes, producers working to adapt to a changing environment.

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.

Fairtrade International developed the Fairtrade Climate Standard, as a way for smallholders and rural communities to gain access to the carbon market while also improving their capability to face climate change. The standard sets the requirement for projects which reduce emissions in producer and rural communities, making them eligible for Fairtrade Carbon Credits. A minimum price ensures the costs of running the projects are covered. In addition, producers will receive a Fairtrade Premium for each credit sold: money to support them to adapt to climate change in their communities.

The Fairtrade Climate Standard is an add-on certification to Gold Standard certification for carbon emissions reductions and sustainable development benefits.

Read more about Fairtrade Carbon Credits.

Download the Fairtrade Climate Standard.

Beyond the Standards

A number of different efforts are underway to support producers to adapt to climate change, advocate for their own needs and reduce Fairtrade operational emissions, in line with our overall climate change strategy.

Supporting producers to adapt

Fairtrade is raising awareness on climate change amongst producer organizations, and supporting them to develop adaptation plans.

The main activities include:

  • assessment of risks and opportunities,
  • promotion of locally-identified adaptation strategies,
  • sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and
  • exchange of information and best practices among producer networks.

With the help of public and private funding, Fairtrade has developed a number of adaptation projects, including activities such as planting varieties of coffee bushes more resistant to leaf rust in Central America, and creating demonstration farming plots with tea farmers in Kenya.

In the future, we will work with farmers of other key Fairtrade products.

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, Doha and Lima. 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.

Internal Carbon Reduction Plan

Fairtrade International has developed a methodology to monitor its own carbon emissions and is implementing a strategy to reduce them, and compensate for any remaining emissions. This methodology has been audited by an external party to verify its efficiency and accuracy. We have compensated all our emissions for 2014. Fairtrade International will promote the use of a similar approach throughout the international Fairtrade system.

Recent Fairtrade News on 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.


Fairtrade Inspiring Action against Climate Change at COP21

23 November 2015

With just one week until the crucial climate change talks start in Paris, Fairtrade producers from Latin America and Africa are preparing to travel to COP21 to make the voice of smallholders heard in the debate. They will be...


New Fairtrade Climate Standard enables smallholders and rural communities to fight climate change

01 October 2015

Businesses looking for innovative ways to take positive climate action by reducing their carbon footprint and compensating their emissions will soon have a new weapon in their fight against climate change, with the publication of...

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Additional Links and Information

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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 a standard and certification body working to maximise the impact of climate and development initiatives. The organization is Fairtrade International's partner in developing the Fairtrade Climate Standard.

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