Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Fairtrade, a charity which attempts to offer an alternative to third world coffee buying cartels, to ensure vulnerable farmers receive a decent price for their crop, has produced a report which demands urgent climate action. But in my opinion Fairtrade are ignoring the very real hardship climate action would impose on the poor people Fairtrade tries to help.
A Brewing Storm: The climate change risks to coffee
Coffee is a key global crop and the second most valuable commodity exported by developing countries, worth around US$19 billion in 2015. Worldwide, around 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day. Nearly half of all Australians drink coffee regularly. The coffee market is growing, but faces big challenges coming up fast:
- There is strong evidence that rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns are already affecting coffee yields, quality, pests, and diseases—badly affecting economic security in some coffee regions.
- Without strong action to reduce emissions, climate change is projected to cut the global area suitable for coffee production by as much as 50 per cent by 2050. By 2080, wild coffee, an important genetic resource for farmers, could become extinct.
- Leading global coffee companies, such as Starbucks and Lavazza, publicly acknowledge the severe risks posed by climate change to the world’s coffee supply. Consumers are likely to face supply shortages, impacts on avour and aroma, and rising prices.
- In the next few decades, coffee production will undergo dramatic shifts—broadly, away from the equator and further up mountains. Production will probably come into con ict with other land uses, including forests.
- Rising CO2 levels may boost the growth and vigour of the coffee plant, but there is no guarantee this ‘fertilisation effect’ will offset the risks imposed by a more hostile climate.
- Most of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers are smallholders. Alone, they have little capacity to adapt to a hotter world in which climate and market volatility conspire against them.
- Over 120 million people in more than 70 countries rely on the coffee value chain for their livelihoods.
- Many countries where coffee exports form a main plank of the economy are also amongst the most vulnerable to climate risk. Honduras, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Guatemala, for instance, rank in the top- 10 for climate-related damages since the 1990s.
- Climate change is likely to significantly increase the burden on the health and well being—physical and mental—of coffee producers, labourers, and communities, with consequences for productivity.
- Crop adaptation strategies include developing more resilient production systems, diversifying crops,
and shifting plantations upslope. The global trend, however, is towards intensification as producers
seek to lift yields at the expense of more complex and carbon-rich landscapes. Ultimately, climate change is likely to push many producers out of coffee altogether.
However, the future for coffee and the world is not yet set. Several coffee companies have responded to customer demands for climate action, and many nations are making substantial efforts. Fairtrade, for example, has moved to ensure the production and supply chains for its Fairtrade Climate Neutral Coffee don’t add more heat- trapping greenhouse gases and that steps are taken to build safer, more resilient, more sustainable workplaces. Positive changes are brewing from above and below.
Read more: http://fairtrade.com.au/…
According to their website, Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of farmers and workers around the world.
But as President Obama once admitted, an inevitable consequence of restricting fossil fuel usage is skyrocketing energy prices.
Video of President Obama admitting climate action will make energy prices skyrocket;
If implemented, the impact if Fairtrade’s recommendations would go far beyond simple increases in energy costs. For example, the first stage of manufacturing nitrate based fertilisers – converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia – is very energy intensive.
Even if poor people managed to avoid the fossil fuel powered mechanisation which they would no longer be able to afford, they cannot avoid the impact of increased energy costs on the price of essential farm inputs.
The climate models which Fairtrade uses to justify their position have never demonstrated predictive skill.
All this artificially imposed energy poverty and hardship for the sake of unproven predictions, from climate models which have never gotten anything right.
For shame, Fairtrade.