The Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development (FCDS) and the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) analyzed the behavior of deforestation in areas where REDD+ projects funded by the voluntary carbon market have been implemented, yielding several recommendations to improve their effectiveness.
Agriculture, forestry, and other land uses such as converting forest land into pasture are the main source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Colombia. In 2018, this sector accounted for 59.1% of the country's total emissions.
This shows that deforestation is the main environmental and climate change problem in the country, driven by the appropriation of public lands, extensive cattle farming, road construction, illegal mining, and illegal crops.
Due to the development of tools, regulations, and financial mechanisms, Colombia has recently advanced an initiative to reduce GHGs and deforestation: carbon markets through REDD+ projects (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation plus other forestry activities).
Although these tools have proven to be efficient in implementing certification and commercialization of mitigation results, they have been globally criticized for their quality and real impact on the environment.
In view of this, FCDS and CCAP evaluated the behavior of deforestation in areas where REDD+ projects from the voluntary carbon market have been implemented in Colombia. From the analysis, 123 forest projects were found in 14 million hectares of the country, of which 71 are REDD+ and 52 are reforestation or restoration. Fifty-six percent are in feasibility or idea phases and the rest are in verification processes and receiving payments.
"Sixteen REDD+ projects have certified mitigation results, 10 are developed in areas of Afro-Community councils, five in indigenous reserves, and one with farmers. Thirteen of these projects met the requirements for a deforestation rate analysis," says the analysis by FCDS and CCAP.
The analysis showed that deforestation rates are lower in REDD+ project areas. However, it showed that the effect of collective titling and territorial governance processes (indigenous reserves and Afro-Colombian community councils) is greater than the project effect.
"REDD+ projects with mitigation results are not predominantly located in active deforestation centers. Although they constitute a contingency system against future threats, their current contribution to reducing national deforestation is limited," warns the analysis.
According to Rodrigo Botero, director of FCDS, the main objective of this analysis is to have an independent view of the performance of REDD+ projects and generate recommendations to improve their effectiveness.
Among the recommendations from CCAP and FCDS are to constantly monitor the effectiveness of investments channeled through the voluntary carbon market and REDD+ projects, including their impact on deforestation trends.
"These projects require a differentiated approach regarding the behavior of deforestation in the areas where they are located,” said Botero. “For example, in regions with high levels of illegal activities, actions must be taken to strengthen the territorial control of communities and local authorities. In addition, it is essential to promote the active participation of communities and the private sector in project design and implementation.”
Strengthening the community governance structures of forests within the framework of REDD+ initiatives should be a priority. This can be facilitated using public policy through the formulation of a binding safeguards system designed to meet the needs of voluntary market projects.
For his part, CCAP Carbon Markets Program Manager Martin Perez mentioned that markets should be a tool for community well-being, which includes two pillars. First, quality because without it, companies will systematically stop financing projects through the purchase of certified carbon. Second, community governance of projects, as the conservation of forests will never be achieved without people living in harmony with ecosystems and if resources do not remain in the intermediation. These variables should be of interest to private companies that buy certificates and preferably have a public institutional framework to guarantee compliance.
"Certified carbon comes from changes in behavior and essentially from strengthening rural communities for the sustainable management of their territories, so it is also a social agenda," said Perez.
The analysis recommends that the carbon markets and REDD+ projects agenda be linked to strategies to improve state presence and security in the territories in question, in order to improve the legal security and viability of the projects and guarantee the rights of the communities and stakeholders involved. The aim is to consolidate carbon markets and REDD+ initiatives as an important element within a broader agenda of development, peacebuilding, and conservation at the local and national level.
For Botero, improving REDD+ projects in Colombia should also include, in parallel, advancing the land titling agenda, clarifying tenure, use and access, and strengthening territorial governance.
"It is relevant that the agenda be linked to strategies to improve state presence and security in its territories,” he emphasized. "The aim is to consolidate carbon markets and REDD+ initiatives as an important element of development, peacebuilding, and conservation.”
CCAP’s mission is to support every step of climate action, from ambition to implementation. A recognized world leader in climate policy and action, CCAP creates innovative, replicable climate solutions, strengthens capacities, and promotes best practices across the local, national, and international levels to accelerate the transition to a net-zero, climate-resilient future. CCAP was founded in 1985 and is based in Washington, DC.
FCDS supports the sustainable and equitable economic development of human populations, especially in rural areas, while preserving these populations’ natural and social conditions. The Foundation promotes peacebuilding through a territorial environmental management method that emphasizes environmental protection and sustainable development.