Carbon credits with coffee: a how-to guide

by on August 7, 2009

Last spring I posted about a lecture I attended at the SCAA conference on coffee and climate change. I focused on the climate module that Rainforest Alliance is adding to its certification. Part of this initiative was to create a methodology for measuring and verifying carbon stored on coffee farms and a mechanism for producers to receive payments for carbon credits.

Rainforest Alliance partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group; ECOM Agroindustrial Corp., the world’s third largest coffee trading company; and coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua to develop and test these methodologies. They produced a document, “Guidance on coffee carbon project development using the simplified agroforestry methodology” (PDF).

The guide is in six parts, and I’ll paraphrase the introduction to outline what each is about:

  1. A general overview of forest and agroforest carbon projects to help the reader understand what a “project” is and what it is not; what is needed to set a project apart from business as usual practice; and why such projects are important and have value.
  2. Preparation and design of a project, requirements for a Project Design Document which identifies and explains each of the project’s key activities, elements, and important data.
  3. Description of risks to carbon projects’ success and how to assess and lower or manage them.
  4. Explains the processes of independent third party evaluation.
  5. An overview of the financial and contractual arrangements associated with carbon projects.
  6. Glossary and resources.

It’s a pretty straight-forward and non-technical document, and if you are interested I encourage you to download it and give it a look. One of my first thoughts was that this is still well out of the realm of many very small producers who might be only marginally literate. Like all certification schemes, we (the consuming “North”) are imposing a lot of rules and erecting a lot of barriers on farmers to in essence prove they are managing their land in an environmentally-responsible manner so that they might be rewarded for it. I don’t think the average Juan Valdez is going to sit down by the light of his wood-burning stove with this guide and be on his way to selling carbon credits. It will require support and partnership, which in turn requires funding, and ultimately boils down to the need for consumers to be willing to pay more for a sustainably-grown cup of coffee. Which I’ve been saying all along.

Photo by DelosJ under a Creative Commons License.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Climate change,Coffee and the environment

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