Addressing the Effects of Climate Change
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 indicates 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 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 organizations have also introduced carbon reduction plans to reduce their operational impact on climate change.
Learn more about the global work plan, how climate change is addressed in the Fairtrade Standards, and how the Fairtrade movement is going even further to tackle this growing challenge.