A small but important announcement was made late last year as world leaders debated the way forward on climate legislation at COP 21 – the Fairtrade Climate Standard was released. This new venture – in partnership with the Gold Standard Foundation – aims to further utilise carbon offset projects to increase skills, knowledge and financial flows to producer communities in countries in the Global South. As one of the most trusted brands in Britain, Fairtrade have not taken their decision to enter a new market lightly and the key driver behind their involvement is the inherently unfair nature of climate change.
Hand on heart, most of us recognise that climate change is largely a problem caused by the developed world, however it is not common knowledge that a cruel climatic irony is at play. The majority of people in developing countries are small scale producers or smallholders dependent on crops and livestock as both a means of subsistence and income. These people are therefore the most vulnerable to weather extremes in a changing climate, but are also the people that have made little – if any – contribution to the cause of it. A staggering 80% of the world’s food is produced on land less than 2 hectares in size – when you consider that most of this is vulnerable to a changing climate, the scale of the challenge makes Fairtrade’s intervention understandable and very welcome.
I have just returned from Bonn where I attended a workshop at Fairtrade’s HQ on the key operating procedures defined in the newly published standard. Just like Fairtrade bananas and coffee, I learned that a key feature of a Fairtrade offset is that a so-called Fairtrade premium must be paid to the producers (not developers) of the carbon credit. (In a cookstove project, this is the people who have swapped their 3 stone fire for an improved cookstove.) This premium must then put to use for the collective good of the producers in the way that has been democratically decided by that group to be most appropriate for their needs. In a traditional Fairtrade supply chain, this premium is typically used to invest in improved processing techniques, organic fertilisers or similar things that will add value or improve working practices. A Fairtrade carbon offset is different; the premium must be invested in climate adaptation activities – thus enabling and empowering producers to prepare for a changing climate. Project Facilitators, like co2balance, will assist producer groups by transferring knowledge about climate adaptation practices (such as improved irrigation practices or water storage) to deliver extra impact within the offset project. Now that the Fairtrade standard has been approved after exhaustive revisions, the rest of 2016 will see it being trialled by around 20 projects, including one of our own. We are very excited about what it can bring to the carbon market and shall continue to keep helping shape its development.