COP26 – Climate and Coffee

At COP26 world leaders are being asked to respond urgently to the worsening climate crises. Fairtrade farmers have written a letter to the world leaders asking them to be fair with their climate promise. We can support them in this by signing the Petition that will be given to world leaders at the COP26 in Glasgow.

Businesses are also being asked to ensure that they support more vulnerable suppliers A Fairtrade and climate  business pledge  has been signed up to by many leading businesses internationally like Ben & Jerry’s, Tony’s Chocolonely, Waitrose, Coop and M&S in the UK, and including the first company in Ireland to sign up to Fairtrade – Bewleys.

Many coffee growing communities are dramatically impacted by an increasing number of chaotic climate events like the two hurricanes, Iota and Eta that struck Central America in late 2020. And we also know that they are equally as badly affected by the loss of rainfall due to climate change as they are by the floods associated with hurricanes. In this short video Luis Miguel Garcia Arango and colleagues from the Anserma cooperative in Honduras explain  how climate has affected coffee farmers sales which were down 40% last year. Sales of Fairtrade coffee were also down nearly 40% in Ireland in 2020 due to market restrictions caused by COVID19. 

As well as asking our supporters to sign the Petition for world leaders at COP26, we are asking that they ensure the coffee they drink at work, in colleges and coffee shops ensures a decent long term price for the farmers. This is the only way the coffee business can be sustainable and farmers and the environment protected in the longer term.

Visit our Fairtrade Workplaces or Fairtrade Colleges sites to see how you can support coffee farmers in the longer term and check out some of the companies behind Fairtrade here.

One company, Bewleys, have been buying coffees from small-scale farmers in Central America on Fairtrade terms for over 25 years. This year in the context of the climate conference, COP26, being held in Glasgow in November, they and other leading companies internationally, have taken the Fairtrade business pledge. This Pledge says that:

  1. We promise to pay fair prices to producers – farmers and workers should not have to choose between tackling poverty and building resilience to the climate crisis. Our Fairtrade commitments are critical to achieving this. The cooperatives that supply our Bewleys branded coffees sold in Ireland now receive the Fairtrade minimum price and  premium on all this coffee.   
  2. We promise to be long-term partners with farming communities, listening to the experience of farmers, sharing our expertise and investing in the urgent transitions farmers need. We back a shift in food production and supply, to one that is resilient to the changing climate, including backing nature-based solutions. We will support farmers as we work together to cut the emissions embedded throughout our supply chains.  
  3. We promise to ‘know and show’ our climate impact, by measuring carbon emissions embedded in our supply chains, assessing the climate risks faced at farm level, and publishing the results. We want to raise awareness about the challenges, the practical solutions, and the need for others to raise their game.  
  4. Finally, we promise to speak out, calling in public and private for governments to set and deliver ambitious targets for emissions reductions and climate finance that puts farmers and workers first.  

The photos below by Sean Hawkey of climate impacts in Honduras and Nicaragua show how urgent it is for Governments to commit the US$100 billion called for at COP26 to support climate adaptation in the global south- and to ensure meaningful investment of these funds in coffee growing communities.  

We also have our part to play in ensuring the resilience of farmers in the teeth of the climate crises by ensuring that it isn’t just added to the challenges of poverty and exploitation associated with many commodities like coffee.  

Peter Gaynor
Executive Director
Fairtrade Ireland

  • Honduras

    A bridge over the once-mighty river Choluteca, now nearly dry. Climate change and poor resource management is pushing this area of Honduras into arid conditions, and with ongoing prolonged drought, the area is in danger of becoming desert.

  • Nicaragua

    A bridge near San Francisco Libre in central Nicaragua, that no water has passed under for months. The rains just didn't come. In wide areas across El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, harvests have been completely destroyed by the drought causing enormous hardship for many thousands of poor subsistence farming families. The drought in this area is believed to be an effect of climate change.

  • Nicaragua

    A bridge in San Francisco Libre in central Nicaragua. Clouds pass overhead but no rain has fallen for months, and it's the rainy season. In wide areas across El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, harvests have been completely destroyed by the drought causing enormous hardship for many thousands of poor subsistence farming families. The drought in this area is believed to be an effect of climate change.

  • Honduras

    Scenes of the destruction caused by hurricane Eta in Chamelecón, San Pedro Sula.

    Hurricane Eta hit hard across northern, central and western Honduras. Before the local population has been able to begin recovery hurricane the population braced for hurricane Iota. Many low-lying areas were evacuated in preparation.

  • Honduras

    The main road in La Ceiba, Honduras, the bridge was destroyed by the flood waters that came with hurricane Eta and Iota.

  • Honduras

    Leaf rust is a disease whose proliferation is related to climate change. Climate change increases temperatures but also the moisture content of the air, and increased moisture improves conditions for fungal growth. Leaf rust is a fungus that affects coffee trees, here on the left a healthy coffee tree with coffee cherries; centre is a leaf affected by leaft rust, and; on the right there is a coffee tree affected by leaf rust, stripped of its leaves. the coffee industry in Central America has been devastated by leaf rust, and many other agricultural products are threatened.

  • Honduras

    Coffee trees were destroyed across hundreds of hectares of land that suffered landslides in Honduras after hurricanes Eta and Iota. Extremely heavy and protracted rainfall also caused widespread dropping of green coffee and the leafs from coffee trees.

  • Honduras

    Leaf rust effects on a coffee plantation in La Laguna, Santa Barbara, Honduras.