"Nature is good to people, and people are good for nature. The world needs more people like the communities the Conservancy works with in Guaraqueçaba to help protect tropical forests and reduce carbon emissions."
formerly the Conservancy's forest carbon director in Latin America and now a leading figure in the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact
A decade after being launched as one of the first Carbon Sequestration and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation projects in Brazil, the Guaraqueçaba Climate Action Project is celebrating its many successes on the occasion of its 10th Anniversary.
Actually a group of three forest carbon projects on three separate reserves, the Guaraqueçaba Climate Action project has been made possible through the Conservancy’s work with local partner SPVS (Society for Wildlife Research and Environmental Education), as well as investments made by General Motors, ChevronTexaco, and American Electric Power. SPVS owns the three reserves, and is responsible for implementing the project on the ground.
Although carbon and REDD projects are being established in greater numbers around the globe every day, the Conservancy and partners’ climate action project in Guaraqueçaba was one of the first in Brazil — established at a time when few even knew what a forest carbon project was. The project has successfully lowered carbon emissions and removed carbon from the atmosphere, while providing valuable lessons for future REDD activities.
“The Conservancy is exceptionally proud to have been at the forefront of carbon sequestration and avoided deforestation projects — not just in Brazil, but around the world,” says Miguel Calmon, formerly the Conservancy’s Forest Carbon and Climate Change Director in Latin America, and now a leading figure in the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact.
“The road hasn’t been an easy one; there have been lessons to learn along the way since the trail hadn’t really been blazed before,” continued Calmon. “But the Conservancy nonetheless established an on-the-ground project that not only continues to mitigate carbon emissions ten years after it got off the ground."
By avoiding the emission of approximately 370,000 tons of carbon by keeping existing stands of Atlantic Forest well-protected, and by removing 860,000 tons of carbon through reforestation and assisting natural regeneration, the Guaraqueçaba Climate Action Project will provide 1.2 million tons of carbon benefits over its 40-year life span.
Because nearly 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation, the Conservancy has established several projects around the world to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation as well as restore tropical forests and their ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Results: Nature Conservation
Though it is reducing atmospheric carbon by 1.2 million tons, the Guaraqueçaba Climate Action Project isn’t just about climate change — it’s also about preserving one of the last viable remnants of the world’s most endangered tropical forest: the Atlantic Forest.
Subjected to deforestation for urban development, farming, and ranching over hundreds of years, the Atlantic Forest — which rivals the Amazon in biodiversity — has been reduced to just 7 percent of its original size.
In the area around the Guaraqueçaba Climate Action Project, satellite imagery clearly shows that forests were being cleared for the grazing of non-native Asian water buffalo and the introduction of invasive African grasses. With the project areas being protected on three separate reserves, stands of Atlantic Forest that would have otherwise been destroyed are being conserved and restored, and carbon is being stored rather than released.
The project is also helping the larger Guaraqueçaba Environmental Protection Area conserve more than 700,000 acres of highly vulnerable Atlantic Forest, thereby preserving habitat for thousands of species of plants and animals, including jaguars, white-lipped peccaries, Brazilian tapirs, hundreds of bird species, and more than 1,000 species of plants.
Beyond creating several new preserves and protecting Atlantic Forest remnants, the Guaraqueçaba project is also restoring the Atlantic Forest—planting native tree species and helping forest pockets regenerate naturally. 10 years into the project, 650,000 seedlings have been planted on 3,700 acres, with an additional 42,000 acres being managed for avoided deforestation.
The Guaraqueçaba Climate Action Project proves that what’s good for nature is also good for people.
“It was very important to the Conservancy to ensure that local people had a stake in keeping the forests around Guaraqueçaba standing,” said Calmon. “Everyone has to make a living somehow — so if you can’t farm or ranch, how can your family earn money? That’s why we and our partners have involved so many community members in income-generating, sustainable enterprises.”
The project is also providing direct employment for 45 local people. It has supported the establishment of local honey businesses, organic banana growers, ecotourism operations, and women-run t-shirt and handicraft cooperatives.
Besides creating local jobs and income, the project also supported the construction of an Environmental Education Center, which has already served to inform more than 8,000 visitors about the importance of Atlantic Forest Conservation and carbon removal.
Adding approximately one million dollars to the revenue of the two municipalities involved (Antonina and Guaraqueçaba), the project has enabled these locales to receive tax benefits for preserving native forests that can now be reinvested back into building even stronger communities.
“Look, nature is good to people, and people are good for nature,” confirms Calmon. “The world needs more people like the communities the Conservancy has with in Guaraqueçaba to help protect tropical forests and reduce atmospheric carbon emissions. And since they have profitable ways to keep the forest standing, the Guaraqueçaba communities are happy to help keep their land green and healthy for decades to come.”