Colombians are conserving their local environment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while earning revenue for their communities.
In one of the largest Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)+ initiatives of its kind in the world, almost 9,500 Afro-Colombian and indigenous families are rallying around a plan that could preserve the rainforest for the next three decades.
The rainforest is well worth preserving, but why now? Known as the Choco Bio-Geographic Corridor, this area 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.
Another impetus for conservation is global climate change. Deforestation and forest degradation cause an estimated 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions can be avoided if tropical forests remain intact, because trees capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
Yet, these motivations are abstract; until recently, communities have had few tangible incentives to conserve their forests. Now, under the innovative REDD+ framework, participants can receive monetary compensation for every hectare of forest they conserve.
REDD+ Incentivizes Conservation
Under the REDD+ framework, communities prepare an action plan, called a project design document, to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. This design document takes into account the social, economic, and ecological factors that affect forests and proposes actions to avoid future emissions. Once verified to international standards, communities obtain carbon certificates that they can sell to governments, organizations, and individuals that wish to reduce emissions or offset their carbon footprint. For example, a community could sell its credits to a multinational company that is reducing carbon emissions as part of its corporate social responsibility goals.
In Colombia, Chemonics’ Biodiversity — REDD+ Program (BioREDD+) has helped communities implement the framework on almost 832,000 hectares of land. With funding from USAID, the program provided support and training to 18 community councils and one indigenous reservation to work together to create REDD+ action plans for eight projects. These projects, which will combine better forest management with alternative sources of livelihood, could reduce more than 71 million tons of CO2 emissions over 30 years.