Climate Change: Where We Work

Confronting the Problem, Locally and Globally

Rio Bravo Project

Protecting Central America's Mayan Forest


The Rio Bravo Climate Action Project ensures the conservation and sustainable management of 15,550 acres of forest in the Central American country of Belize. Between 2002 and 2010, the project prevented the net emission of 1,660,260 metric tons of carbon dioxide by preventing its conversion to mechanized agriculture.

Established in 1996, the Rio Bravo Climate Action Project was one of the first REDD+ projects in the world. The carbon project is part of the larger Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a 260,000 acre reserve which includes mixed lowland and moist sub-tropical broadleaf forests in northwestern Belize.

Programme for Belize, a long-time partner of The Nature Conservancy, manages the carbon project and private reserve. Initial project funding for land acquisition and project implementation was provided by WE Energies, Duke Energy, DTE Energy, PacifiCorp, and the Utilitree Carbon Company. Today, the project is receiving additional financial support from Delta Air Lines, customers of Delta Air Lines and supporters of The Nature Conservancy who offset their personal carbon footprint by making donations resulting in the retirement of verified offsets from this project. The Project has been validated and verified according to the Verified Carbon Standard (“VCS”), a global leader in the quantification of carbon emissions and the issuance of credits on the voluntary market.

Conservation Benefits

The Rio Bravo Climate Action Project is found amid the biologically rich, tri-national, Mayan Forest. This million-acre corridor is critical to biodiversity conservation in Central America. It is an ecologically diverse area with extensive hardwood forests, pine savannah and wetlands, and is considered one of the most important areas in the region for mahogany, cedar, and other commercially valuable tree species. Abundant in wildlife, the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area is reputed to have the healthiest and most plentiful population of jaguars in all of Central America. The project area is home to 200 species of trees, 400 species of birds (20-25% migratory species), 70 species of mammals and 39 species of conservation concern including the Jaguar, Puma, Margay, Ocelot, the Howler and Spider Monkeys. Due to its rich diversity, efficient protection and a healthy prey base, the RBCMA was selected as the release site for the restoration of the globally threatened Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) in 2005.

A Model Project

The Rio Bravo Climate Action Project, one of several carbon projects developed by the Conservancy and its partners, is a model project demonstrating how saving forests is part of the solution to climate change.

  • Permanence. Long-term funding mechanisms, including establishment of an endowment fund, will help to support the project over the long term. Control of fire and illegal wood harvesting in the project area help reduce unintended loss of forest and new emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • Additionality. The carbon benefits are clearly additional to what would have occurred without the project. If not for the project, the land would have been cleared and converted to agricultural production.
  • Leakage. As part of the third-party verification of carbon offsets from the Project, a discount was applied to gross carbon benefits to account for potential leakage due to the project activity.
  • Local economic development. Various project activities provide jobs and training in ecotourism, forestry, forest management and park security. Improved road maintenance and other infrastructure improvements benefit communities that border the area.
  • Forest resource and habitat conservation. Increased protection and improved forest resource management ensures conservation of timber and non-timber resources. The forest management plan is certified under Forest Stewardship Council principles and guidelines by Rainforest Alliance.


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