Climate change

Farmers are on the front line of climate change. For millions of farming families and communities worldwide, especially those in the global south, the impacts of climate change are a daily reality.

2021_mountainside of Cajas, Northern Peru
Luisa Reyna Huamán García (left) and Carmen Córdoba García walking along the mountainside of Cajas, a village located near Choco in northern Peru.
© Danielle Villasana

Higher temperatures, drought, floods, extreme weather, crop diseases, soil erosion and sea water contamination threaten livelihoods and food security. All of us – consumers, retailers, traders – rely on farmers to produce the food we need to feed a growing global population. 80 percent of the world’s food comes from 500 million small-scale farms. If they suffer, we all feel the consequences. Some studies suggest that a rise of just one degree could lead to reductions of between five and ten percent in the yields of major cereal crops.

Climate change isn’t fair. Often, it’s those with the lowest carbon footprint who are hit hardest. No-one knows this better than Fairtrade farmers and producers, some of whom are already struggling with loss of land, crops and livelihood. Extreme weather and rising temperatures are already hitting the production of major Fairtrade commodities including coffee, cocoa and tea.

How Fairtrade addresses climate change

Fairtrade’s unique, two-pronged approach helps farmers become more resilient to climate change, whilst at the same time giving consumers, retailers and traders the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint. All this is underpinned by the Fairtrade Climate Standard.

Firstly, farmers, producers and workers can spend the Fairtrade Premium – that’s the extra money they get from sales of Fairtrade certified crops and products – on projects such as tree planting, irrigation, crop diversification and clean energy, which are more sustainable on a local level but also contribute to the global fight against climate change. Fairtrade farmers and workers decide for themselves how the Premium money is spent, because it is they who know best what they need to become more resilient.

Secondly, Fairtrade Carbon Credits – in partnership with the Gold Standard – enable farming communities in developing countries to benefit from access to carbon finance to tackle the effects of climate change. Farmers get a double benefit from Fairtrade Carbon Credits because they get a minimum price to cover the costs of setting up and running a project, and in addition they can use the Fairtrade Premium on every credit sold to invest in adaption and mitigation.

Protecting biodiversity, promoting sustainability

Climate change and the crisis in nature are closely linked. The 2019 UN Global Assessment suggests one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Fairtrade helps safeguard the natural world by promoting sustainable food production through our standards – for example by prohibiting highly dangerous pesticides or cutting down trees in protected areas.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face. Fairtrade helps farmers adapt, mitigate and become more resilient, and supports businesses and consumers to be part of a more sustainable supply chain.

Additional resources

- Fairtrade and the carbon market (report)

- Fairtrade Carbon Credits brochure

- Fairtrade Climate Change Programme (factsheet)

- Climate Change Projects - Learning from experience

Key external resources

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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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