Coffee farms generally and smallholdings especially do not contribute greatly to GHG emissions but this is not to say that growers should not engage in mitigation measures, i.e. reduce their carbon footprint. However, coffee farms in many if not most countries often also offer potential to increase their tree cover, either through the planting of (more) shade trees or by extending the total forest cover on a farm or in a demarcated area. Provided this is an additional activity, i.e. it would not happen without the incentive of earning carbon credits, such plantings can generate marketable carbon credits through the carbon sequestration process that the additional trees generate. ** Environmental services. A particularly interesting discussion, potentially of great importance for the coffee sector, is whether maintaining shaded coffee farms, i.e. conserve existing shade trees and their carbon stocks, should count towards earning carbon credits. After all, coffee farms under shade conserve more carbon than coffee grown in direct sunlight but at the cost of lower yields. There is therefore potentially an opportunity cost to adopting such conservation measures over sun grown coffee. Although in some cases this can be compensated for if linked to premium prices like for organic, the lack of incentives for farmers to provide environmental services in this way is evident. Furthermore, should farmers not be rewarded for conserving existing shade grown coffee as is proposed for forests under REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)? The current requirement that farmers growing shade coffee plant additional trees before they may qualify for any carbon credits in effect means that the environmental services they already provide are being ignored.As of end 2009 we are not yet aware of any coffee projects that already generate marketable carbon credits, but there are a number of ongoing projects that are leading the way. For example:
All the foregoing suggests that more detailed information and actual examples on how coffee growers could progress into the voluntary carbon market system will become available during 2010 or, latest, 2011.* It is important to note that credible reporting and verification of carbon credits requires that one 'carbon credit unit' is always the same, regardless of where or how it was produced. To be credible a project therefore needs to be based on accepted standards and procedures, including transparent accreditation, validation and verification. It needs to be properly structured and adequate records must be kept.For more on this visit http://www.adapcc.org/download/LPedroni-Carbon-Credits.pdf** An interesting aspect of forestry projects is that plantings etc. can be monitored through satellite imagery, e.g. through GoogleMaps.*** See also The Global Forest and Trade Network - http://gftn.panda.org. GFTN is a World Wildlife Organization initiative and offers information, contacts and tools in respect of sustainable forest management and forest certification.**** Registering with the BioCarbon Fund website gives access to a number of documents, including reports on the state of the carbon markets (both CDM and Voluntary).