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UK News

British cuppa at risk from climate change, says Christian Aid

by Donna Birrell

Climate change is putting the much-loved British cuppa at risk as extreme weather and rising temperatures hit tea-growing countries, according to Christian Aid.

The UK and Ireland drink more tea per person than any other countries in the world, with Kenya alone producing half the black tea drunk in the UK.

But in a new report, the charity is warning that climate change is going to slash optimal conditions for tea production in Kenya by a quarter in the next thirty years.

Dr Kat Kramer from Christian Aid told Premier more about the research :

"Climate change is impacting lots of people around the world, but notably those living closest to the land. Tea is a major export for Kenya. Tea plants, like all plants, have conditions that they like to grow in. And they like temperatures from around 16 to 29 degrees Celsius, they like a stable rainfall. But what we're seeing with climate change is that these conditions are not being met. And so something like 26 per cent of the optimal areas for growing tea within Kenya will become less and less optimal as time goes on, because of climate impacts."

Dr Kramer explained that water changes the biochemistry of the plants and the aromatic compounds which give tea its flavour :

"Some of these aromatic compounds will burst if the plant gets waterlogged and if there's too much water around, the plant doesn't receive the signals that it needs to make these. And then of course, the ones that it does make become more diluted, because there's more water that the plant has taken up and so the flavour of the cup of tea will change."

The research suggests areas with only average growing conditions will see production fall by 39 per cent by 2050.

Other major tea-producing countries including India, Sri Lanka and China also face rising temperatures and new weather extremes. Dr Kramer says :

"In India, we found that 88 per cent of plantation managers and 97 per cent of smallholders are already seeing climate change impacts."

The warning comes as the UK prepares to host the G7 meeting of major economies next month - where Boris Johnson has said climate and finance for poor countries to cope with global warming will be a priority.

And Dr Kramer says there is an opportunity for change : 

"Within the next few years, we have a window of opportunity to act - there is still time available. I mean, one of the big questions for the G7 is around debt and around climate finance more generally. And it's how much these wealthy countries are willing to open their pockets to actually deliver a global recovery that is in solidarity with other countries that are also suffering tremendously."

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