Environment and climate change

Climate-friendly coffee from Costa Rica

Costa Rica has set itself the goal of reducing CO2 emissions in coffee production.


Small country, big role model: Costa Rica has set itself the goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The country’s many measures to mitigate climate change include the use of climate-smart methods to cultivate and process coffee. Farmers are, for example, learning how to reuse the organic waste produced during coffee processing and fertilise crops in a more efficient and low-carbon manner.

Coffee is among Costa Rica’s key exports, but coffee production also has a negative impact on the country’s environmental performance: the cultivation and processing of coffee beans are responsible for a quarter of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Coffee processing is therefore an important aspect in achieving Costa Rica’s ambitious climate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021. One of the country’s Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) is to support the cultivation of climate-friendly coffee. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is advising the country on implementing this measure.

The project is financed using funds from the NAMA Facility, a joint initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Facility supports a wide variety of measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries and emerging economies. The project aims to enable farmers and processing companies to sustainably produce and process low-carbon coffee. It also supports efforts to market and sell the world’s first low-carbon coffee as an innovative product worldwide.


Climate-friendly methods also reduce costs

More than half of all emissions produced during coffee production are the result of the use of chemical fertilisers. The organic waste produced during processing accounts for a further 30-40 per cent of emissions: after all, only the coffee bean itself is used, while the shell and the flesh are discarded. This organic waste then slowly decomposes and releases emissions.

In training, participating farmers learn about sustainable farming methods that reduce emissions. They learn how to use chemical fertilisers more sparingly and how to use organic waste in production processes to, for example, heat roasting ovens and thus reduce wood consumption. The discarded remains of the coffee fruit can also be used as a fertiliser to partially replace chemical fertilisers. These and other methods are helping coffee producers to not only reduce emissions, but also cut costs.

One third of farmland in Costa Rica is to be sustainably managed

Thus far, more than 3,000 coffee producers have taken part in the training on climate-friendly methods. Some 300 local advisors from the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica (ICAFE) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG), who were trained by GIZ, are supporting farmers in their efforts to put their newfound knowledge to good use.


By the end of 2019, it is anticipated that sustainable farming methods will be used by 6,000 coffee producers covering 25,000 hectares of land – which corresponds to one third of all land used for coffee cultivation in Costa Rica. This will cut carbon dioxide emissions by a total of 60,000 tonnes per year. To identify promising points of departure for this – such as energy-efficient composting machines – producers are pinpointing areas where their greenhouse gas emissions are especially high.

Climate-friendly coffee the world over

In addition to cultivation and processing methods, a further focus of the project is the successful marketing and sale of coffee worldwide. In this context, a sales trip at the beginning of October 2017 by five companies supported by the project to several German roasting plants and the Anuga food and beverages trade fair proved a great success. The companies are currently in sales negotiations for the 2017/2018 coffee harvest.

Costa Rica’s climate-friendly coffee is also attracting interest from various other countries: Colombia and Honduras, for example, are interested in developing their own measures for climate-neutral coffee, and projects are already under way in the Dominican Republic.


Last update: October 2017