Climate change will cut land available for coffee by more than half, says report

Climate change will reduce the land available for coffee by 54% by 2100 even if global temperatures are contained to internationally agreed targets, according to a new report.

Coffee growers from Honduras to Ethiopia said they are already suffering from climate destabilisation and the charity Christian Aid is calling on the UK Government to help by cancelling historic debts and raising money to pay for climate loss and damage.

The charity has calculated that rising temperatures and unpredictable conditions will shrink the world’s land suitable for growing coffee by 54.4%, even if global temperatures are limited to 1.5-2C above pre-industrial levels.

Around 98 million cups of coffee are drank in the UK a day and it supports more than 210,000 domestic jobs, according to 2017 figures from the British Coffee Association.

More than half the coffee drank in the UK comes from Brazil and Vietnam, two countries particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Vietnam clocked its highest ever temperature on record last week at 44.1C, while neighbouring countries also experienced new extremes.

Rising temperatures, as well as erratic rainfall, disease, droughts and landslides brought on by human-induced climate change, threaten to shrink the coffee industry and impoverish its producers.

Yadira Lemus, a Honduran coffee farmer, said: “As a coffee producer, it is more and more difficult to produce. And yes, that is obviously related to climate change because before we would plant coffee and it produced almost by itself.

“With regard to climate change, we are seeing an increase in temperature. It is harder to predict the weather. Before we could say which is winter or summer, and when we can plant. Not anymore.

“We cannot say that because it changes from one year to the other and it is not easy to predict. Who was going to predict that we were going to have the storms and hurricanes we had last year?

“Now you see there is a lack of rain. We are more vulnerable to these types of changes.”

Christian Aid issued its dire warning in a new report, Wake up and smell the coffee: The climate crisis and your coffee, which calls for a cancellation of “unjust” debts and financial support to help farmers diversify their livelihoods.

Yitna Tekaligne, the charity’s Ethiopia country manager, said: “Africans make up 17% of the world’s population but we generate just 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions that have caused the climate crisis. And yet it is we who are suffering the brunt of the impacts of climate change.

“Our coffee industry is Ethiopia’s most important export and generates significant employment. But now it is under threat from climate change.

“The impact of climate change on coffee production is in plain sight, including through high levels of coffee leaf rust.

“There is a lot the UK Government can do, starting with using its power to get Western private creditors to cancel the debts of the world’s poorest countries and mobilising the vital finance we need to address the loss and damage caused to our country by the climate crisis.”

Christian Aid also polled 2,181 UK adults about coffee and climate change alongside its report and found 57% of respondents to be concerned about how climate change will impact the cost, taste and availability of coffee in the UK.

It also showed 69% agree that the UK Government should do more to reduce the impact of climate destabilisation on the UK’s food supply chain, for example by supporting farmers to diversify their income.

David Taylor, Fairtrade Foundation’s senior policy manager, said: “This timely report from Christian Aid highlights what Fairtrade coffee farmers have been telling us for some time: the catastrophic consequences of climate breakdown is endangering not only their livelihoods, but also the future of their popular crop.

“Farming communities have a critical role in addressing the climate crisis and have the expertise to tackle it.

“However, too many smallholder coffee farmers – particularly those without the financial protections Fairtrade offers – simply cannot afford to do so, because the price they receive for their produce is far too low. This is unjust.”