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Colombia Eyes Greenhouse Gas Cuts Through Forest Protection

Date: 29-Jun-12
Country: COLOMBIA
Author: Marcelo Teixeira

Colombia plans to have in place 10 months from now a new system to measure deforestation, which it hopes will drastically improve its ability to establish a national policy to reduce emissions from deforestation (REDD), the country's environmental minister said.

Tropical forests cover one-third of the Andean country and according to Colombia's latest greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, emissions from land-use change shot up 132 percent from 1990 to 2004, the largest increase in all the country's sectors.

"It's a high rate for a country the size of Colombia. In reality, the country has failed in the last 10 years in controlling deforestation," said Marcelo Rodriguez Becerra, a professor at Universidad de los Andes and a former Colombian environment minister.

Current Environment Minister Frank Pearl told Reuters Point Carbon that the ministry is preparing to establish a better system to track the rate of deforestation.

"We've been working on it (new system). The idea is to have a measurement mechanism (ready) by April next year," he added.

Pearl said Colombia has lagged behind its neighbor Brazil in terms of monitoring Amazonian deforestation, hampering efforts to launch a national REDD policy.

"Our system is only able to produce one measurement per year, while Brazil can have new information at every two days," Pearl said.

Brazil developed a successful mechanism to gauge land clearing, a tool it used to fine and sue land owners under a broader forest policy that reduced deforestation from 27,000 square kilometers in 2004 to 6,000 currently.

The country has offered to transfer technology to its neighbors in the Amazon basin, including Colombia.

Pearl said the deforestation rate in Colombia stood at around 230,000 hectares/year according to most recent data.

Manuel Rodriguez Becerra, a professor at Universidad de los Andes and a former Colombian environment minister, said deforestation averaged 350,000 hectares per year in the last decade.

PRIVATE SECTOR PLANS

Pearl said that besides deforestation, the country plans to implement a series of projects with the private sector in other areas to reduce greenhouse gases.

"We are going to adopt concrete commitments for each productive sector on how to reduce emissions," said Pearl, a Harvard-educated, former private sector consultant.

"We are looking at each project, each idea, measuring their impacts, looking at how they fit in companies business strategies. We need to evaluate what is financially and socially viable," he said.

Colombia is one of a group of countries who received funds from the World Bank to finance studies on market instruments to facilitate cuts on emissions.

USING THE MARKETS

But the country is not looking at a cap-and-trade system, said Andrea Garcia-Guerrero, the government's climate change director.

"Colombia has no plans to develop a local carbon market, but we plan to keep participating actively on existing markets and the ones that are being developed, and for that we are building capacity in our sectors," Garcia-Guerrero said.

Manuel Rodriguez says the local government clearly is giving more importance to climate change since severe rains in 2010 and 2011 left millions without homes, destroyed major roads and reduced yields from coffee crops, a major item on the country's exports.

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