Climate change » Information about Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 1992 “Climate Change" refers to a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. In line with the target of permanently limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 °C above the pre-industrial level, the Convention requires all Parties to implement climate change mitigation measures and report on their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifths Assessment Report scientifically proves that “the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased“ (IPCC 2013). The effects of climate change are clearly perceivable, and impacts are being felt worldwide, especially in the agricultural sector. Agriculture itself also causes different direct and indirect GHG emissions.

What causes Climate Change?

The current global warming trend is mainly caused by human-induced emissions of GHGs. The primary source of GHG emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, which produces significant quantities of emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). The atmospheric CO2 concentration is now higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years and is well above the pre-industrial level. Other GHGs, such as methane (CH4 ) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from industry and agriculture, are also building up in the atmosphere.

Increased atmospheric GHG concentrations change the radiation balance. The gases prevent solar radiation and heat from escaping into space: they reflect the radiation back to the Earth, intensifying the greenhouse effect. As a result, the Earth´s average surface temperature is increasing. According to the scientific assessments published by the IPCC, a ‘business as usual’ (BAU) scenario, with no changes to present policy and continued unabated greenhouse gas emissions, could increase mean global temperature at the Earth’s surface by as much as 4.5 °C.

Around 14 % of global anthropogenic (human-induced) GHG emissions come from agriculture. Here, land degradation is the main source of CO2 emissions. Sustainable land use plays a key role in reducing GHG emissions from agriculture and in maintaining the soil’s natural function as a carbon sink. Crop farming also produces emissions, mainly from the use of fertilizers.

For more information on the causes of climate change click here. 

Which processes lead to GHG emissions?

Of the six greenhouse gases, CO2 is of greatest concern because it contributes the most to enhanced greenhouse effect and Climate Change. Currently, CO2 is responsible for over 60% of the enhanced greenhouse effect, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels.

Deforestation, when forests are cleared for agriculture or development, is the second largest source of carbon dioxide. Methane (CH4) is the second most abundant GHG after CO2. The main sources of methane include cattle, decomposition of organic matter in flooded soil, disposal and treatment of garbage and human wastes by anaerobic decomposition. Nitrous oxide is an important anthropogenic GHG and agriculture represents its largest source due to the use of fertilizers and manures. The nitrogen contained in those products enhances the natural process of nitrification and denitrification. Bacteria and other microbes in the soil carry out this process to convert part of the nitrogen into nitrous oxide.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6 ) are long-lived and potent greenhouse gases; very small emissions of these gases relative to CO2 can have a large climate impact due to their higher global warming potential.

The term “Carbon Footprint” has become a widely used to define responsibility and abatement action against the threat of global Climate Change. A carbon footprint is obtained by quantifying GHG emissions produced during a defined period of time, which is then expressed in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq ).

What does the world do against climate change?

The international community has set itself the target of limiting global warming to 2 °C above the pre-industrial level, in order to avoid major environmental impacts. Meeting this target will require more intensive efforts from industrialized and developing countries alike. Historically, it is the developed countries that have been responsible for the major share of greenhouse gas emissions, but according to projections, the developing countries will account for around 55 % of global emissions by 2025. With ambitious low-emission development strategies and green growth strategies, however, it is possible for developing countries to bypass the emissions path taken by the industrialized countries and progress directly to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.

Climate Change will have a profound impact on the majority of the economic sectors and the society. The way a nation, its companies and its people respond to this challenge will determine the sustainability of their future economic, environmental and social development. This offers opportunities related to innovation, customer opinions and preferences, investments and technological change in the different economic sectors. Due to growing conscience about climate change and environment-friendly development, consumers may be giving preference to products with a zero impact on the climate. For this reason, Costa Rica’s C-neutral brand is a promising measure to steer the private sector towards a climate-friendly environment.

The 19th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP19) invited all Parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their Intended National Contributions (INDCs); commitments for the post-2020 period. As at 4 April 2016, 161 INDCs had been received, covering 189 Parties to the Convention, including one regional economic integration organization, representing 96% of Parties to the Convention and covering 95.7% of global emissions in 2010.

What is the NAMA Café doing to mitigate Climate Change?

The agricultural sector accounts for 37 % of Costa Rica´s GHG emissions or 4.6 million tons of CO2/year. 25 % of these belong to the coffee sector (10 % of overall emissions or, in absolute terms, 1.15M t CO2/year). The NAMA Café through its NAMA Support Project “Low-Carbon Coffee Costa Rica” (NSP) addresses the two most important sources of GHG identified in the coffee sector: the farm (N2O mitigation and CO2 fixation) and the mills (CH4 and CO2 mitigation). The NSP will have direct and indirect effects on mitigating GHG emissions as it will focus on improving the “mitigation capacity” of Costa Rica. The project will contribute to the following emission reductions by the target groups (farms and mills):

  1. Reductions in nitrous oxide emissions, by adoption of efficient practices of fertilizer and lime application.
  2. Reductions in methane emissions by improved water management in anaerobic treatment systems and by introducing technologies for wastewater treatment.
  3. Reductions in methane and CO2 emissions through aerobic treatment and energetic use of pulp.
  4. Reduction in CO2 by improved combustion systems in the ovens and boilers and increased use of solar drying.
  5. Increased fixation of carbon by the spread of coffee agroforestry systems (intensified shading).

The reduction potential of the NSP in growing and milling estimated to be approx. 30,000 t CO2/year, meanwhile carbon sink potential is approximately 90,000 t CO2/year, resulting in a total mitigation potential of 120,000 t CO2/year.