“The Alarm Clock is Ringing!”: Urgency to Act Against Climate Change

Written By:Stefan Ruge
Date:10 April 2022

“Stop hitting snooze! The alarm clock is ringing!”, was the motto of the webinar “Missed Wake-Up Call” organized by the initiative for coffee&climate last week. Stefan Ruge, Program Manager Climate at HRNS, discussed together with climate scientist Dr. Peter Baker and moderator Jesko Johannsen how climate change affects the whole coffee sector and how pressing the situation actually is. We asked him to give us an overview of the key insights and messages we can take away from the webinar.

The situation is way more severe than we all think and we really have to join forces to prevent a disaster – this is how I would summarize the central appeal of last week’s webinar. But let’s dive a bit deeper into the topic.

A 1.5°C target is almost out of reach.

Peter Baker vividly painted a picture of how the climate is heating up unabatedly – something that we all “know” but that we are obviously not sufficiently aware of. According to him, a 1.5°C target is basically out of reach. Whereas the overall global temperature rise is now 1.1 to 1.2 °C, the global land temperatures are already at 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The global temperature increase therefore could hit 2.5°C or beyond by 2100 which will result in unforeseeable consequences. And that is in view of the fact that impacts of climate change are evident already.

Climate change impacts coffee-growing regions more than expected.

What we see is that weather patterns are getting more extreme and increasingly less predictable: Extreme droughts, heavy rainfalls, hailstorms, pests and diseases come together with socio-politic implications such as an increasing gender gap or exacerbated poverty. People in tropical regions are the ones who suffer most from these impacts of climate change. So, within the coffee sector, it is the producers who are affected first and foremost. We are talking 12.4 Mio smallholder coffee farming families who provide for 80 % of the world’s coffee. Their livelihoods are directly threatened by the impacts and people might be forced to migrate to different regions or to diversify out of coffee as, if the changing conditions make coffee cultivation no longer possible where they live.

The severity of the situation requires immediate action.

Things are not only changing – they are changing fast! There is only a small time frame left to act in order to have a chance at all to mitigate the effects of climate change. There are approaches to react, to prepare the people in tropical regions for it, but so far, we do not see a globally coordinated effort. We are obviously not tapping our full efficiency potential and could do a lot more. But what does that mean for the coffee sector? There might be even a chance that coffee is getting scarce at some point in the future. However, it is not about coffee alone, it is about the people – coffee farmers and their families – and supporting them to become resilient to the changes.

The coffee sector must join forces.

So why aren’t we already further along? A major reason for inaction could be that people are misjudging the situation. According to Peter Baker, the coffee industry is insufficiently aware and prepared for the scale of what is happening. So, what can we do about it? First of all: Let’s stop hitting snooze and finally wake up! Then, let’s take action: In order to make a significant impact, we need at-scale and coordinated measures across organizations – a concerted action of the sector.

Only a holistic approach can bring the change we need.

Beyond a concerted action of the sector, we need a holistic approach to tackle the challenges. That means an approach that considers and connects all aspects of coffee farming communities, that is participatory and inclusive.

c&c provides such a concerted and holistic approach.

There are already a number of coffee companies that have taken this direction. In 2010 they founded the initiative for coffee&climate (c&c) in order to unite the efforts and expertise of coffee companies, public organizations and coffee farmers. And it truly is a holistic approach: In a five-step participatory and inclusive process, smallholder families get access to practical tools and knowledge, allowing them to adapt their farms to climate change and keep producing coffee, food and other crops, minimize carbon emissions and enhance the carbon storage potential in farms and coffee landscapes. Through the c&c toolbox, an open online platform, experiences and knowledge are also shared among farmers worldwide. This enables smallholder coffee farming families to effectively respond to climate change and safeguard their livelihoods.

c&c has achieved a lot and has big plans.

c&c has already supported 92,000 coffee farming households in seven regions worldwide. An additional 80,000 families shall be reached by 2024. To further expand this work, c&c continuously assesses climate trends, risks, and further options for climate action. c&c has huge potential that needs growth to be fully tapped. We are thus more than happy to welcome coffee companies and development organizations to join the initiative and to build a climate-smart coffee sector together.

If you would like to see the full recording of the webinar, you can find it in our YouTube channel or below:

Webinar: Missed wake-up call