Colombian landscape project will make GLF carbon neutral–Q&A with South Pole Carbon

2 December 2014

Making the Global Landscapes Forum 2014 carbon-neutral – that was the goal, when South Pole Carbon, leading developer of emission reduction projects (Voluntary Carbon Market Survey 2014), has agreed to support an offset project for reforestation in Colombia to make up for the Forum’s CO2 emissions.

The project chosen for this occasion is located in Manizales, in the central-western area of Colombia. This department is part of the Coffee-Growers region of the country and dominated by the scenic Nevado del Ruiz Glacier Mountains National Park, which has lost more than 36% of its ice cap since 1970 due to climate change.

Ecological restoration through assisted natural regeneration and reforestation with both native and commercial timber tree species, agroforestry and a mixture of forest and pastures on an area of 4,540 hectares is the program’s aim for its first phase.

Christian Dannecker, Director Forestry and Land Use of South Pole Carbon, talked to Rahayu Soegiono about GLF and the positive impacts of the project in Manizales.

 

Q: What does it mean if an event is made carbon neutral and how does it work?

 

A: As most activities, an event causes Greenhouse Gas emissions through travel to get to the event, eating food, causing waste, consuming electricity and other activities. The best practice in reducing the climate impact of events is, as a first step, to reduce its emission by designing and implementing the event in an environmentally friendly manner (for example, by holding the event at the same time and place as other events like COP 20 in Lima – thus avoiding too many additional flights of participants) or by reducing its waste production (for example by avoiding one-use plates and cutlery).

As a second step, the residual emissions that cannot be avoided are compensated by supporting a project that generated carbon credits certified against internationally recognized standards.

 

Q: Why did South Pole Carbon choose GLF to make it carbon neutral?

A: GLF brings together key decision makers from across the world who may have a big impact on designing upcoming climate change policy. The aim is to reach agreements that are effective and efficient to tackle deforestation, establish and sustain landscapes able to maintain their ecosystem services, and reduce emissions. South Pole is a leading company which works in analysis, policy and action. All these segments help firms, the public sector and other organizations in achieving their sustainability targets, like the ones that will be decided at the GLF.

Q: How will GLF exactly be made carbon neutral?

A: The emissions directly and indirectly attributable to GLF (Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions) will be calculated by South Pole once the details on participants travel and other data, such as electricity consumption, are available. South Pole will then retire, on behalf of the GLF, Carbon Credits from our Chinchiná Watershed protection and afforestation project in Colombia. The project has already absorbed more than 250’000 tCO2e (250,000 tons CO2 equivalent).

Q: Why did South Pole Carbon choose Manizales as the location for such a project?  In what way were the conditions better/worse than elsewhere?

A: Manizales is the capital of the Department of Caldas, where water supply strongly depends on the  glaciers and the high moors, crucial for runoff control. Due to that unique geographical location, South Pole chose Manizales, but also because the project is an excellent example of holistic decision making at a landscape level. Before the implementation of the project there were a lot of problems such as

  • erosion of the rich volcanic soils,
  • sedimentation and siltation of rivers,
  • decrease of quality of water,
  • problems with the regulation of the runoff of water, and
  • biodiversity loss.

They were caused by the main land use practices – unshaded coffee production, potato growing and extensive cattle ranching on steep terrain. Hence, the primary objective of the project is to regulate and improve the quantity and quality of freshwater for the region’s communities by conserving or restoring key areas within the watersheds. However, additional objectives are less erosion through agroforestry systems, income generation through reforestation, higher amounts of employment per hectare, and provision of ecological connectivity through silvopastoral systems.

Q: Which difficulties did the project have to overcome in terms of landscape conditions or reactions from local communities?

A: The main difficulty was to convince the communities of both short-term personal benefits and long-term benefits for the communities.And of the disadvantages of the business as usual activities. The project hence had a strong capacity building component and provided permanent long-term technical support available at no cost to the participating communities, organized through communal interest groups like Asociación De Productores Agroforestales (Association of Agroforestry Producers).

Q: So what changed for the communities? 

A: The relationship of the community with the forest has changed for many reasons. There is a better understanding of the ecosystem services provided in the watershed, mainly the provision of drinking water, runoff control and avoidance of erosion. Erosion frequently led to mudslides going down onto the main road Manizales-Bogotá. People had to learn about which  practices are working well in the local context and which ones are not. It looks like the community feels more connected to the forest now than before the start of the project.

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