Addressing Climate Change
One Farmer’s Story
Climate change is a pressing reality for Leandro Salinas, a coffee farmer in the heavily deforested coastal region of Oaxaca, Mexico. “We feel the heat,” he says. “It doesn’t rain like it used to.” Shorter rainy seasons, increasingly extreme storms and spikes in pest and disease outbreaks—these are the realities on the ground for Salinas’ community, as they are for coffee farmers in many regions around the world.
Like his neighbors in Santa Lucía Teotepec, Salinas is an indigenous Chatino smallholder farmer who relies on coffee cultivation as his primary income source. Global warming poses serious threats not only to the region’s coffee plants, but also to the economic and social fabric of his community.
Cause and Effect
Climate change is the result of excessive greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, launching a cascade of negative impacts. Agricultural activity, the conversion of forests to farms and other land-use changes (i.e., the AFOLU sector) are responsible for about 25 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions each year, and in some tropical countries, that percentage is even higher.
While clearing land to increase growing area may boost yields in the short term, the long-term effects of deforestation on communities like Santa Lucía Teotepec is devastating. Not only do forests absorb carbon dioxide and stabilize the microclimate, they also provide clean air, fresh water, wildlife habitat, fuel, food, medicine, wood products and precious green space. And deforestation can wreak immediate devastation on those who depend directly on these natural environments to feed, heal and shelter their families.
What Drives Deforestation
The main cause of tropical deforestation is agricultural expansion. Without financial incentives to keep forests standing, individuals, communities and even local governments are more likely to convert their biodiversity-rich forests to farmland. And as the global population grows and people’s need for food, medicine, building materials and other forest products increases, pressures on the world’s forests increase as a result.
What We Are Doing
By providing communities, businesses and governments with financially viable alternatives to deforestation—and helping them to adapt to those climactic changes that are already occurring—we can help to curb and mitigate the very serious effects of climate change. The Rainforest Alliance works with farmers, forest managers, tourism businesses, NGOs, scientists and governments to encourage the environmentally responsible management of farms, forests and other natural resources, while also ensuring that the social and economic needs of communities are being met. Our multifaceted approach includes several large-scale collaborative climate projects as well as a range of other initiatives, listed below.
Promoting Climate-Smart Farming
Millions of Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms are already conserving trees and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and some farmers are going even further to ensure that their farms increase carbon storage by planting trees, managing water use and improving soil conservation. Those who use our climate-smart methods stabilize their microclimates, which helps them adapt to prolonged drought and other impacts of global warming. Learn More »
Encouraging Responsible Forest Management
We work with communities and forestry businesses to help them manage their forest resources responsibly. Our forest management methods are designed to protect high-conservation value areas and wildlife habitat, prevent deforestation and safeguard riparian zones, and we award Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)/Rainforest Alliance certification to those forestry businesses that meet the strict criteria of the FSC standard. We also work actively to advance REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus forest conservation), a set of policies and practices designed to incentivize sustainable resource management. Learn more about our work in community forestry and REDD+ »
Reducing Tourism’s Carbon Footprint
We provide guidance to operators and destinations on low-emissions tourism strategies to help them become more sustainable, reduce their emissions and support local and climate-smart suppliers—and we encourage them to purchase offsets for those emissions they cannot eliminate. Learn more »
Climate-smart practices not only help safeguard ecosystems; they also support the economic health of farming and forest communities. The Rainforest Alliance is working with forest communities to establish carbon projects that teach community members how to increase carbon storage—through the restoration of degraded forestland, for example—and measure the results of their efforts. These projects also have the potential to earn money through the sale of carbon credits, providing valuable supplemental income for communities that depend on forests for their survival. Learn more »
Strengthening Carbon Markets
Carbon markets are a powerful conservation tool that can improve livelihoods for forest-dependent communities and reward those that manage their resources responsibly. In order for carbon markets to function, however, investors must trust that a project’s carbon-offset claims are measurable and verifiable. Thanks to our extensive auditing expertise, the Rainforest Alliance has become a leader in the validation and verification of forest carbon projects and the assessment of the methodologies used to design and implement them. Learn more »
Like communities and governments, businesses play a key role in our collective ability to combat climate change and prepare for its impacts. They, too, can take steps to increase efficiency, safeguard their reputations and protect their supply chains. And the Rainforest Alliance provides guidance and support for companies that want to reduce emissions throughout their operations, source raw materials from climate-smart suppliers, invest in credible carbon projects and/or develop their own projects. Learn More »
Shaping Climate Policy
In addition to our fieldwork, we help to shape climate policy at global, national and regional levels, ensuring that the voices and rights of local communities are heard and respected. We provide governments with our guidance and expertise, and we encourage the adoption of climate policies and programs, such as REDD+, that address the causes of deforestation and reward forest conservation, reforestation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Learn more »