"We need to scale up. We need to keep scaling up, especially financial support, so that more producers can adopt NAMA standards, and this applies to all agricultural sub-sectors."
Co-benefits': the key concept for building an agri-environmental agenda
To be the current Minister of Environment and Energy and former Director of Climate Change does not prevent Andrea Meza from having enough equanimity to understand that not all sectors already have decarbonization as a flag and number one priority. That is why she places so much emphasis on what she sees as the only way to position the decarbonization agenda among the productive sectors: the co-benefits. According to Meza, this is the path that leads us to areas of convergence in which, not by imposition but by their own conviction, the sectors will become interested in innovating, developing and adopting new and better practices.
-The identification of co-benefits was a perfect arrangement, as it allowed us to tie economic and environmental benefits in a very clear and concrete way.
In this sense, the Coffee NSP provides the country with a very important lesson: if the institutional framework can identify the areas of interest of each sector; if private actors are called to the table to be listen to and understand their needs, and if the co-benefits that an initiative can offer are jointly identified, it will have better possibilities of success.
Decarbonization is not an environmental bonus. It is synonymous with an efficient and modernized economy.
Meza draws attention to global economies and explains that their interest in decarbonization is growing and accelerating. Market conditions have gradually become an incentive for the productive sector to meet certain standards. She warns, however, that this incentive will soon become a demand and a requirement for those who wish to continue competing in these markets.
-We need to change the narrative. I would stop saying that decarbonization or NAMAs are "environment". This is a modernization agenda. Of efficiency. When we talk about a sector having to be pro-environment as if it's a bonus...that sounds decorative, when in fact it's vital to continue to compete in markets. China has announced that it will be carbon neutral by 2060. That's a historic milestone. What is it telling us? That this is the agenda of the future. That's the economy of the future.
The Agri-environmental agenda
Regarding how to bring institutional positions together, Meza explains that Costa Rica's ministries of environment and agriculture have been developing an agri-environmental agenda, according to which the process of decarbonization and conservation of the natural heritage involves landscape management.
This approach leads us to stop seeing natural heritage conservation as an activity limited to conservation areas and instead to integrate surrounding areas, including farms. We know that we need coherence between both perspectives [agriculture and environment] and we have been working on this.
Results that transcend indicators
Meza sees the results of the Coffee NSP on two levels: the immediate and tangible, but also the one that derives from it and transcends it.
For example, good practices on farms, technological modernization and process optimization are valuable in themselves and, indeed, we were able to work with a significant number of producers and coffee mills. But their effects go beyond that. Because these optimized processes will end up positioning Costa Rican coffee, not only as a gourmet coffee -which is the reputation it has earned- but also integrating sustainability considerations. The result: it gives us a new standard.
Another example: improving traceability. In the immediate term, it is crucial for monitoring the measures and evaluating their effectiveness. But for the minister it goes much further. A producer who incorporates control and quantification in his/her processes and records his/her productivity becomes an entrepreneur. And this improves the management of the production unit and thus its competitiveness and resilience. Finally, the positioning in the commercialization process also improves by creating a new type of relationship with the consumer, who has the possibility of knowing not only where his or her coffee comes from and who produces it, but also what processes characterize it and differentiate it from other coffees in the market.
What's next for the country in terms of the NAMA after the end of the Coffee NSP?
-We need to scale up. We need to keep scaling up, especially financial support, so that more producers can adopt NAMA standards, and this applies to all agricultural sub-sectors.
Every project that ends leaves challenges, either because they were left unresolved or because new ones arose along the way.
But Meza corrects the word 'challenge' and instead prefers to refer to an 'agenda that must become more and more consolidated '.
She refers to the role of the financial sector. It is necessary to design financial products tailored to those we need to make the transitions, to design them according to the particularities of each sub-sector. She explains that there is progress. There is already a green protocol signed with the banks, but this process must be accelerated in order to scale up. It is an agenda that needs to be further consolidated