CIAT workshop means Latin America is ready for REDD

27 May, 2011 by (comments)

Latin American governments are now better prepared for the next round of climate change negotiations, following a REDD-related workshop at CIAT’s headquarters in Colombia.

The week-long event, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ), UN-REDD and the World Bank, focused on ways to calculate the opportunity costs of land use change and deforestation. Over 50 public administration officials and economists from 15 countries in the region attended.


It followed similar workshops in Thailand and Tanzania earlier this year, which used methodologies developed by the CGIAR’s ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins.

Land use change, such as the clearing of forest for agriculture, accounts for up to 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the total emissions from the transport sector worldwide. Understanding the relative economic and environmental costs of different land uses, and the implications of changing from one to another, is key to helping decision makers identify those that should be encouraged or restricted.

It will also play a crucial role in the implementation of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), the international mechanism established as part of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC), which could see rich nations pledge money to developing nations to help them protect their rainforests.

Participants at the workshop, which featured guest speeches from the head of Colombian Ministry of the Environment’s climate change office, Andrea Garcia, and the World Bank’s Payments for Environmental Services expert Stefano Pagiola, also learned how to calculate the costs associated with the implementation of REDD+, the modified version of the original REDD doctrine, which includes provisions for forest conservation, sustainable forest management and increasing forest carbon stocks.

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“If you clear an area of forest for extensive cattle ranching, you can expect relatively low productivity, low profits and high greenhouse gas emissions,” explained Glenn Hyman, of CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) program, who helped coordinate the event. “A better option might be to conserve the forest and receive payments for the environmental services it provides.

“But there are other costs and benefits to consider. Many smallholder farmers and their families have no other option than to clear a few hectares of forest to plant food crops. If REDD is going to prevent them growing food, it follows that they have a right to be compensated, which begs the question, how much should the payment be?”

During a field trip to a nearby area of tropical forest, participants were shown one way of calculating the amount of carbon stored in different land use systems, which they can use to establish its financial value, compared to the price of carbon credits on the international market.

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“Calculating carbon storage means getting your hands dirty to begin with,” continued Hyman. “You have to get into the field to measure the trees, take soil samples and assess the biomass. Then, using economic modelling and land use maps, we can scale-up these calculations to much larger areas.

“By using all of this information, you can get a much more accurate idea of the opportunity costs involved in land use change, and how to develop policies with the most impact.

“Ultimately, it’s really about getting the balance right between protecting the environment and protecting the livelihoods of those who depend on it. This training will allow countries to decide what is in their best interests when it comes to developing national plans for mitigating climate change, and in-turn, for establishing their negotiating positions during future REDD discussions.”

For more pictures from the event, check the set on CIAT’s Flickr page.

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Filed Under: Climate Change, Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions