A round-up of week 2: COP26

With a focused lens on what it all means for the tea industry.

Week two of #COP26 saw many more debates and negotiations, and now world leaders are quite rightly under pressure to move beyond their words and to take ‘real action’ to fight the climate crisis and to keep global warming to 1.5C to prevent a global climate catastrophe.

Our Environmental and Climate Lead Rachel Cracknell has been observing and watching the negotiations closely, bringing to our attention some of the main discussions that will have impact on the tea industry now and in the future.

Tuesday: Day 9

Rachel has been attending several key events within the green zone and listened into an insightful discussion ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour’ today. While for ETP consumers are not a direct stakeholder, the consumer of course plays a critical role to make sustainable change in the tea industry. Rachel learns from the panel speakers that we must make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions by minimising the ask we place on them.

The tea industry has historically relied on certification signifying environmental and climate credentials. Carbon labelling has been trailed but proved confusing for the consumer. Rachel asks how do we work with others in the tea supply chain to ensure the end consumer understands our environmental efforts?

The panel further emphasised the need for showing true transparency throughout supply chains with more visibility around impact and data sharing. Rachel agrees that this is something the tea industry needs to get better at. Rachel concludes by thinking about how we need to show our tea consumers a fuller picture, showcasing the issues and problems the tea industry faces as well as solutions and successes.

Wednesday: Day 10

Today Rachel listened into the ekaterra event entitled ‘Plant Powered to Become Climate Positive’ in which ETP’s Executive Director, Jenny Costello joined the panel alongside Ruchira Joshi, UK Country Director, from IDH - Sustainable Trade Initiative, Abdul-Razak Saeed, PhD, Climate Policy Lead from Rainforest Alliance and Sebastian Pole, Founder of Pukka Herbs.

Rachel’s main interest in this discussion was in the role of organics and Rachel asks: How can we use organic farming as a tool to address some of the systemic challenges we are facing in light of the climate crisis and biodiversity?

Organic tea estates have started to be created and there is some measurable success here, Rachel tell us, but Rachel is more interested in how we can bring organic farming to the nine million smallholder tea farmers around the world.

For farmers to transition to organic farming and to reap the benefits will present huge challenges as there would likely be a reduction in productivity and therefore potentially a reduction in profits and income for smallholder farmers. We need to think how we can make organic farming appeal to smallholder farmers, and more importantly how it can make financial sense?

Rachel and Jenny both suggest Payment for Ecosystem Services could provide a solution. Could tea companies that want to see improvements in biodiversity in their value chains pay a premium to farmers who are farming using organic principles based on improvements in local biodiversity indicators?


Thursday: Day 11

Rachel is excited today by the ambitious plan, Regen10. The plan sets out to scale up regenerative food production systems in a decade, so by 2030 over 50% of the world’s food can be produced with farmers at the heart of a global effort to transform agricultural systems.

Rachel is excited by what this can mean for smallholder tea farmers. With financial investment smallholder tea farmers can benefit in the long-term from regenerative practices such as building soil carbon through adding organic matter, mulching, the integration of shade trees and biodiversity corridors within fields. Rachel thinks that with the right investment from key players in the tea supply chain, Regen10 will provide exciting ways for farmers to adapt to climate change while also working to improve social and environmental conditions across the most marginalised communities.


Friday: Day 12

With COP26 drawing to a close today, Rachel reflects on the three key takeaways for the tea industry.

Firstly, it’s clear that now is the time for immediate, collaborative action to bring innovative solutions to scale quickly and effectively. For Rachel, there’s also a need to recognise the role that the nine million tea farmers play in tackling the climate emergency. She’s keen for more clarity on how these farmers will be supported, and for the industry to determine creative ways to reward and incentivise farmers to engage in regenerative practices and other approaches that address - and respond to - climate change. Lastly, Rachel reflects on the need for greater transparency in data, and calls for a common and consistent methodology to accurately determine tea's carbon footprint.

See all the insights from Rachel on LinkedIn, and click here for a roundup of week one at COP. Read more about key achievements in our climate change work here.