Agriculture / Climate Change

Coffee, climate and conservation

If you’ve read about the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard — the criteria against which farms are audited to earn Rainforest Alliance certification — you know that coffee sold with the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ green frog seal comes from farms that protect wildlife and waterways, conserve forests and improve the quality of life for farm workers and their local communities. What you might not know, however, is that in many cases the sustainable management practices implemented on Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms also help to mitigate climate change.

Coffee Farm

In an effort to ensure that farmers, coffee buyers and individual consumers support climate-friendly coffee production, we’re working with a broad range of partners to build upon and enhance our sustainability certification. We want to make it possible for farmers to demonstrate how they are adapting to a changing climate and help them take the actions necessary to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s a brief look at three ways that we’re integrating coffee and climate…

1. Sustainably Produced Coffee Can Help Mitigate Climate Change

On Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, producers protect native ecosystems and cannot cut down trees just to plant crops. They are encouraged to maintain healthy soils and reduce energy, water and agrochemical use. Practices like these can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the levels of carbon stored on farms. These steps also help farms become more resilient to extreme weather events such as hurricanes — which are likely to increase with climate change.

2. Climate Plus: Verifying New and Robust Practices

Together with our partners in the SAN and a diverse group of collaborators — including Efico, the Efico Foundation, Anacafé (the National Coffee Association of Guatemala), Universidad del Valle of Guatemala — and with support from Caribou Coffee and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance is developing new and robust criteria for verifying climate-friendly practices on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. These criteria are collectively termed “Climate Plus” because they are largely additional to the current SAN Standard.

In meeting the new criteria, farmers will increase their efforts to adapt to changes in growing seasons and potentially altered crop-growing ranges, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with growing, harvesting and processing activities. The Climate Plus criteria are envisioned as a voluntary module that can be verified in addition to the existing SAN Standard. When the criteria are eventually launched, thousands of coffee farms throughout the tropics will not only be Rainforest Alliance Certified but also eligible to earn recognition for their commitment to climate-friendly farming.

3. Carbon Credits and Coffee Farms

By planting trees or avoiding deforestation, farmers can sequester additional carbon and sell credits for it on the carbon market. This activity can benefit coffee farmers and global climate change mitigation efforts alike — but only if farmers are able to follow rigorous project methodologies and meet established standards, assuring carbon-credit buyers that these carbon-sequestration efforts are legitimate. With the support of ECOM and the Innovation Fund of the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group), the Rainforest Alliance developed a how-to guide designed to help farmers develop carbon projects and tested it with coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua. Carbon projects like these can help coffee farmers diversify their income (providing a buffer from the volatile price fluctuations of their primary product) and allow them to continue their traditional farming practices.

We’ll keep you posted as our work with coffee and climate progresses. In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact us!

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