Carbon footprints and carbon stocks reveal climate-friendly coffee production
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Coffee production is impacting the climate by emitting greenhouse gasses. Coffee production is also vulnerable to climate change. As a consequence, the coffee sector is interested in climate-friendly forms of coffee production, but there is no consensus of what exactly this implies. Therefore, we studied two aspects of the climate impact of coffee production: the standing carbon stocks in the production systems and the product carbon footprint, which measures the greenhouse gas emissions per unit weight of coffee produced. We collected data from 116 coffee farms in five Latin American countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Colombia, for four coffee production systems: (1) traditional polycultures, (2) commercial polycultures, (3) shaded monocultures, and (4) unshaded monocultures. We found that polycultures have a lower mean carbon footprint, of 6.2-7.3 kg CO2-equivalent kg(-1) of parchment coffee, than monocultures, of 9.0-10.8 kg. We also found that traditional polycultures have much higher carbon stocks in the vegetation, of 42.5 Mg per ha, than unshaded monocultures, of 10.5 Mg. We designed a graphic system to classify production systems according to their climate friendliness. We identified several strategies to increase positive and reduce negative climate impacts of coffee production. Strategies include diversification of coffee farms with trees, the use of their wood to substitute for fossil fuel and energy-intensive building materials, the targeted use of fertilizer, and the use of dry or ecological processing methods for coffee instead of the traditional fully washed process.
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