November, 2021

COP26 Week 1 Round-up

With a focused lens on what it all means for the tea industry.

A busy first week at #COP26 with many pledges made by world leaders to stand together for this last chance attempt to tackle huge climate related issues as well as rising temperatures.

Our Environmental and Climate Lead, Rachel Cracknell has been observing and watching the negotiations closely, bringing to our attention some of the main pointers that will affect and have continued impact on the tea industry. Rachel also highlights some key activities the ETP is already doing to mitigate against climate change.

Monday: Day 1

The rather ominous scene is set for us; Rachel highlights the imminent issues we face with fluctuating weather patterns causing havoc to tea supply chains now and in the future.

With evidence given to a project ten years ago based in Kenya which revealed even then that erratic weather conditions were already presenting challenges for smallholder tea farmers.

While tea clones can provide a solution to changing weather patterns, Rachel mentions they are not a viable option for many tea farmers due to high investment costs. With global temperatures continuing to rise, food and drink production around the globe will suffer.

Tuesday: Day 2

A good and important day for those working in and across the tea industry with leaders representing over 85% of the world’s forests committing to end (and reverse) deforestation.

With this news, Rachel is keen to think how the tea industry might be able to gain access to the $12bn funding that will be made readily available. Rachel casts her mind to the Malawian tea farmers that have experienced mass deforestation and the huge price they are paying with extreme flooding in the rainy season and problems accessing a secure water supply in the dry season.

While ETP is working on several initiatives through tree planting programmes and tree nurseries, Rachel calls on key figureheads and partners to come together to make the necessary steps for real systematic change.

Wednesday: Day 3

Rachel is interested in the learnings of The Business Manifesto for Climate Recovery with specific focus on the development of Corporate Determined Contributions (CDCs), essential for corporations to assess their emissions in a verifiable and accountable way. Rachel stresses that this is so important because the tea industry has been grappling and struggling for years to find a unified way to measure, monitor and record tea emissions through all areas of the tea value chain.

Rachel raises a critical question; how can we claim carbon neutrality if we are not all using the same measurement metrics?

Rachel encourages everyone working across the tea value chain to come together with support from ETP to develop one consistent methodology to calculate decarbonisation in the same way, and to also set some strong targets to lower emissions effectively.

Thursday: Day 4

Rachel gives focus on day 4 to the important role of soil to climate change. Rachel highlights that for all farmers especially tea farmers, soil is their most treasured asset.

Rachel tells us why soil plays such an important role to climate change by giving some examples through adaptation and mitigation. Rachel explains in terms of adaptation, soil increases the ability to hold and retain water in times of drought and prevents soil erosion and through mitigation by adding organic matter to soil, we can increase carbon content reducing overall climate emissions. Rachel ponders how farmers can gain vital funds to improve soil quality going forward.

There is discussion about carbon credits but with methodologies only just being developed, this won’t be an option for smallholder farmers at scale in the foreseeable. Rachel thinks that perhaps Payments for ecosystem services (PES) could provide a better solution. Is there some way to reward and support farmers that are learning and investing in more regenerative forms of agricultural best practice?

Friday: Day 5

Big news from the UK PM, Boris Johnson is revealed; coal must be consigned to history. Rachel explains that even today some tea producers still rely on coal for their tea production. For example, in India some producers are using coal to create thermal energy. However, with the shortage of coal increasing the prices, it’s important that all tea producers are moving to more sustainable sources of energy, but this of course comes with its own set of challenges.

New investment would be required for new technology and new machinery and for vast numbers of tea producers this is simply unattainable especially with low profit tea margins.

Rachel ponders the role of tea producers as they set their climate change targets. Could they come together with producers in-country to help move along the transition to low carbon tea production?

Please join the discussion on LinkedIn and Twitter; we welcome your thoughts on COP26.

Read more about key achievements in our climate change work here, and stay tuned for next week’s content.