• Overview and background

    New scientific evidence suggests that climate change is accelerating at a much faster pace than previously thought and that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major Earth systems and ecosystems, may already have been reached or even overtaken.*

    Human beings depend for their livelihood on agriculture more than on any other economic activity. This is particularly true for small farmers in developing countries whose economic well-being and food security hinges primarily on farming. Because of this and its high dependence on climate, agriculture has received a great deal of attention promoting studies and debates over how developing countries might adapt to the impact of climate change. The subject is exceedingly complex, not only from the agricultural perspective but also because of its implications for the global agricultural and trade policies that impact agricultural production and food security.

    While climate change is just one of numerous factors that may affect global coffee production, it is nonetheless likely to be one of the most important ones. It is true that a great degree of uncertainty still exists with regard to how individual producing regions will be affected, and how climate change will affect overall coffee production. However, experts expect some changes to occur, and these could be significant in some regions. To complicate matters further, the potential impact will not only vary between countries but also within producing areas in individual countries, for example due to different altitudes.

    Global initiatives to reduce the emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are expected to play an important role in the mitigation of climate change but this apart, better farming methods and improved technology throughout the value chain are of the utmost importance. It is here where the coffee sector is focusing increased attention as will be shown to the extent possible in the topic boxes that follow.**

    * From the foreword by Mr Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, to the 2009 Climate Change Science Compendium, published by the United Nations Environment Programme.

    ** 'Coffee, An exporter's guide' is part of ITC's mission to contribute to sustainable development through technical assistance in export promotion and international business development. As such the Coffee Guide's main emphasis is on international green coffee trade matters, rather than on issues related to production. However, in recent years concern about the potential impact of climate change, coupled with the quest to achieve sustainability throughout the coffee value chain, is increasingly interlinking many producer and trade issues. The object of this chapter of the Guide is therefore to highlight climate change and sustainability issues of particular relevance to the coffee industry, bearing in mind that it is not possible to offer a comprehensive insight into this enormous subject. Therefore, wherever possible sources of more extensive information are indicated.
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