Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Columbia is on the frontier for a new form of climate reduction
In one of the largest initiatives of its kind in the world the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)+ aims for sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries everywhere. Columbia is was one of the first countries to adopt it with a plan that could preserve the rainforest for decades to come.
An area known as the Choco Bio-Geographic Corridor is one of 10 mega-diverse locations on the planet. The corridor is home to more than 9,000 species of plants, 200 species of mammals, 600 species of birds, and 220 varieties of reptiles and amphibians. Many of these species exist only in Colombia or are endangered, and they are increasingly threatened as forests are cleared for agriculture or degraded by illegal logging.
Under the REDD+ program, the Communities are developing an action plan for the reduction of forest deforestation and destruction, called the Project Development Report. This design document takes into account the social, economic and environmental factors that affect forests and proposes measures to avoid future emissions. Once verified by international standards, communities obtain carbon certificates that they can sell to governments, organizations, and individuals wishing to reduce or offset their carbon footprint. For example, a community could sell its credits to a multinational company that reduces carbon emissions as part of its corporate social responsibility objectives.
To local farmers who need to provide for their families, these motivations are abstract; until recently, communities have had few tangible incentives to conserve their forests. Now there is the innovative REDD+ framework (https://redd.unfccc.int). Participants can receive monetary compensation for every hectare of forest they conserve.
The UN REDD+ Programme actually pays locals for Conservation
Under the REDD+ program, the Communities are developing an action plan for the reduction of forest deforestation and destruction, called the Project Development Report. This design document takes into account the social, economic and environmental factors that affect forests and proposes measures to avoid future emissions. Once verified by international standards, communities obtain carbon certificates that they can sell to governments, organizations and individuals wishing to reduce or offset their carbon footprint. For example, a community could sell its credits to a multinational company that reduces carbon emissions as part of its corporate social responsibility objectives.
In Colombia, the Biodiversity--REDD+ Program (BioREDD+) helped communities to implement the framework for nearly 832,000 hectares of land. With funding from USAID, the program provided support and training to 18 community councils and one indigenous reserve to work together to develop REDD+ action plans for eight projects. These projects, which will combine better forest management with alternative livelihoods, could reduce more than 71 million tons of CO2 emissions over 30 years.
Columbia as a testing ground
As a global framework, REDD+ is still in its early stages, and existing projects have served as a testing ground for the idea. The international community has built and validated methods for calculating forest-stored carbon and social and environmental protections through projects such as BioREDD+. The eight BioREDD+ projects also implemented a range of technologies, such as new remote sensing techniques to measure carbon reservoirs more accurately over time and the use of community-approved action plans to provide the basis for feedback on project development.
The Rainforest Alliance in the Verified Carbon Standard and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standard validated all 8 Action Plans in Colombia, recognizing the potential of projects to mitigate climate change while benefiting the community and biodiversity. When REDD+ projects are accredited— checking the implementation of action plans results in net CO2, checked carbon units that they can sell on the international market will be awarded to the community. The government must reinvest the money in the growth of neighborhoods.
Certificates put to work
Private and public entities who plan to voluntarily offset their carbon footprints have previously purchased REDD+ certificates. Marks and Spencer, Allianz, Natura Cosmetics, Microsoft and Barclays are all purchasers. The BioREDD+ Project also creates a first online platform, the Stand for Trees website sponsored by USAID, with the NGO Code REDD to help people buy checked carbon units.
In the future, national governments may also be part of the buyers. In accordance with UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, many governments have agreed emission reduction targets and may use REDD+ certification to achieve those goals according to UN approval. This could mean that a lot more compensation would flow to the 19 communities in Colombia and others like them that are working to conserve their forests.
What's good for the world, is great for everyone
A large swath of Colombia's tropical forests will be protected for future generations thanks to the work of these groups. The REDD+ program is an incentive for them to take responsibility for the sustainability of their natural resources. Mutata's Superior Indigenous Cabinet called it "an essential act of governance over our forests" while at the same time showing the value of a system that could be used worldwide. Could REDD+ become one of the most successful ways to stop climate change by compensating people for being good stewards of their forests? Only time and projects like the USAID BioREDD+ program will tell.
watch the NatGeo Documentary (Spanish language)