"When I was drinking a cup of that coffee in the morning and I thought - this is a good coffee: good in quality, good for the environment and good for the climate."
Tangible results from the farm to the international climate change forums
Despite being responsible for approximately 20% of global GHG emissions, the agricultural sector has not traditionally been considered a priority in international climate change mitigation negotiations. This began to change when in 2012 Costa Rica initiated the search for funds to implement the Coffee NAMA, which is characterized as both the world's first agricultural NAMA and the first NAMA globally to be supported by the NAMA Facility. The NAMA facility is an initiative established by the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and subsequently co-financed by the Danish government and the European Commission, with the aim of providing financial and technical support to developing countries for the implementation of ambitious NAMAs in relevant sectors.
According to Andreas Villar, country director of GIZ in Costa Rica, the country has always been perceived as a very proactive and constructive actor in international climate change negotiations. However, the "double record" established by the Coffee NAMA since its conceptualization, has managed to position Costa Rica even higher internationally, as a country at the forefront.
A NAMA for Costa Rica ... and for the world
It is well known that, globally, compared to other countries, Costa Rica is not a country with high emissions. However, if we cannot prove through sectoral examples that change can be achieved, that transformation can be achieved, we are not going to be successful at a global level, because we have to convince many countries that today are not so avant-garde or ambitious.
Therefore, the Costa Rican Coffee NAMA is of great relevance not only at a national level for its contributions to the reduction of emissions in the agricultural sector, but also at a global level for its role as a model project that demonstrates that it is possible to achieve a sectoral transformation towards decarbonization. Proof of this is that several countries in different regions are starting to work on their own agricultural NAMAs.
NAMAs: linking the environment with the productive sectors
For Villar, the sectoral approach to decarbonization implies an important task of reaching out to actors who have not traditionally been leading the way in international climate change negotiations.
-The great challenge in climate change is not to convince the ministries of environment, but the ministries of agriculture, transport, public works and housing or finance, among others. These often have very little knowledge about climate change because it is not their subject. But there are possibilities that from my sector I can be able to contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions.
Actors and their coffee mills are key
Villar comments that from his point of view the main achievement of the Coffee NSP has been to improve cooperation and articulation between all the actors involved in the coffee value chain, from the ministries (environment and energy, as well as agriculture and livestock) to the coffee producers, including sectoral entities such as ICAFE, academia, local chambers and associations.
Several factors made this achievement possible. First, all the actors in the sector demonstrated a strong political will and a clear commitment to participation. Secondly, the neutral position of GIZ, as an entity with no political or economic interests of its own, facilitated the process of convening the different actors needed to manage this transformation process. Finally, special mention should be made of the acceptance and trust that ICAFE enjoys in the coffee sector, as the entity that best knows and represents its interests.
For Villar, one of the main lessons learned from the project is that in this system of cooperation, each actor must be clear about the specific benefit derived from their participation in the initiative. To this end, it was essential to present the project as an initiative whose primary objective was not necessarily the reduction of GHG emissions, but rather the improvement of processes along the coffee value chain, from the field to the cup.
-One success factor has been to make all stakeholders see that, by exploring economic efficiencies through new production methods, they can achieve better stability and even economic gain.
Villar has no doubt that as long as industry players can see firsthand that low-carbon production increases product quality, that this improved quality allows them to access new markets, which in turn translates into higher sales and a better price, they will not lose interest in participating.
The people behind the gigatons
For Villar, one of the main elements that distinguish and make the Coffee NSP project relevant is that, through its actions, it was possible to connect the great climate change global agenda with the experiences of the people who work in the value chain, as well as the people who consume the final product.
He comments that the great challenge of climate change is that it is still very abstract for most people. In international forums, targets are set to reduce x amounts of gigatons of CO2, but how can this be translated into people's daily lives? Hence the importance of being able to tangibly demonstrate that mitigation actions have both a specific effect and a global effect. According to Villar, the Coffee NSP achieves exactly this.
-Personally, I remember when I got to hold a package of low carbon coffee in my hand. I thought: here I have the special and tangible product of a project in my hand. [...] Furthermore, when I was drinking a cup of that coffee in the morning and I thought - this is a good coffee: good in quality, good for the environment and good for the climate. And that is what I like about the project, that every individual, every human being, or at least every person who likes coffee, may be able to understand the often very complex logic of climate change