- The Conservancy and partners initiated the Noel Kempff climate action project in 1996, making it one of the world’s first large-scale projects to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).
- Noel Kempff protects 1.5 million acres of tropical forest and benefits both people and wildlife.
- The project is expected to prevent up to 5.8 million tons of CO2 emissions over 30 years.
- Noel Kempff is the first REDD project to have its carbon reduction benefits independently verified by a third party.
- The project partners worked with indigenous peoples in the area to help them, for the first time, gain legal title to their historic lands.
Protecting Forests to Reduce Climate Change
In late 1996, The Nature Conservancy and Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN) created the Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project to reduce carbon emissions by protecting 1.5 million acres of tropical forest that were threatened by timber harvesting and deforestation.
Together with the Bolivian government and three energy companies, the partners terminated logging rights in 4 areas just adjacent to an existing national park and incorporated these lands into the park, more than doubling its size to create the 3.9-million-acre Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. Project partners also worked with local communities to create economic opportunities — including jobs as eco-tour guides and park rangers — that provide an alternative to logging and other destructive agriculture practices. By protecting forests and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), the Noel Kempff project simultaneously addresses climate change, conserves biodiversity and brings sustainable benefits to local communities. Through the avoidance of logging and agricultural conversion, the project is expected to prevent the release of up to 5.8 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next 30 years.
The project’s carbon benefits are expected to last in perpetuity as the site lies within the newly expanded national park and a permanent endowment has been established to fund protection activities throughout the life of the project and beyond.
Conservation Significance and Benefits
Aside from reducing carbon emissions, the project:
- Doubles the range for species requiring large tracts of land including the Brazilian tapir (tapirus terrestris) and jaguar;
- Decreases soil erosion and future agricultural runoff into the park’s rivers;
- Provides training for community members on sustainable forest management and use of natural resources, as well as job opportunities as park guards, surveyors and tourist guides; and
- Helped local communities attain legal status as indigenous people and to secure legal tenure of their traditional lands.
Verifying and Monitoring Emissions Reduction
In 2005, Noel Kempff Mercado was the first forest carbon emissions reduction project to be verified by a third party based on international standards adapted from the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. This verification demonstrates that forest protection can achieve real and measurable emissions reductions by preventing the release of carbon that is stored in the living biomass of forests.
The project also included a comprehensive plan to monitor forest health, the socioeconomic impacts on communities and factors contributing to deforestation and degradation in the region. Monitoring and third-party verification showed that between 1997 and 2005, 1,034,107 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which would have been caused by logging and deforestation, were avoided due to this project.
Forest Carbon: A Credible and Critical Climate Change Solution
Forest carbon projects, such as the Noel Kempff Mercado project, demonstrate that forest carbon is a credible and feasible part of an overall solution to climate change.
The Nature Conservancy believes that effective international and U.S. climate change policy must be comprehensive in its approach by:
- Achieve significant reductions in emissions from all major sources;
- Create incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation and to absorb carbon from the atmosphere by conservation-based forest management and forest restoration; and
- Support adaptation strategies that help the natural world cope with the impacts of climate change.