Forests and climate change in Latin America: Linking adaptation and mitigation

Submitted by Emilia Pramova | published 20th Feb 2012 | last updated 5th Jan 2023

Forest ecosystems play an important role in both adaptation and mitigation and there is a need to explore the linkages between these two options in order to understand their trade-offs and synergies.

In forests, potential trade-offs can be observed between global ecosystem services, such as the carbon sequestration relevant for mitigation, and the local ecosystem services that are relevant for adaptation. In addition, mitigation projects can facilitate or hinder the adaptation of local people to climate change, whereas adaptation projects can affect ecosystems and their potential to sequester carbon.

A synergistic approach between adaptation and mitigation can occur at the project scale, as mitigation projects need adaptation for increasing the sustainability and legitimacy of carbon projects and adaptation projects need mitigation for harnessing more funding opportunities from carbon mechanisms.

Some examples can be found in Latin America:

  • Klinki carbon project in Costa Rica which identifies climate-related risks to forests (fire, storms, and pest outbreaks) and measures to address them (e.g. adequate thinning to reduce vulnerability to storms and fire). The project also focuses on reforesting areas that had been cleared for pastureland, building farmer capacity through training on multifunctional plantations with short-term and long-term income generation (resulting in enhanced social adaptive capacity).
  • Chinchiná watershed CDM forestry project in Colombia, which aims at consolidating sustainable forest processes, ensuring hydrological regulation and conserving biodiversity. In this mitigation project, reforestation is expected to control soil degradation and favor community adaptation through the implementation of agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems, and the creation of new income opportunities.
  • Scolel Té carbon offset project in Chiapas, Mexico, where 60% of the carbon sale price goes to farmers who use this revenue to cover the costs of establishing forestry and agroforestry activities and for livelihood needs (food, medicines, house improvement).

Mainstreaming adaptation and mitigation into forest projects can be facilitated by national and international policies, and by the development of climate change standards for forest projects. Given the range of actors involved in mitigation and adaptation, the implementation of synergistic measures may encounter institutional complexity, both nationally and internationally. Consequently, a 'forced marriage‘ strategy may be counterproductive and this integration may need time to materialize.

More information on the synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation, and on relevant projects in Latin America, can be found in the PDF document below.