Mexico’s REDD+ Projects: GHG Emissions Avoidance Update
National REDD+ Strategy
In its efforts to combat climate change and the emissions recorded in the country, Mexico has developed the National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (“ENAREDD” or the “Strategy”), effective 2017. Its objective is to promote sustainable rural development and to preserve and implement national forest carbon stocks.
ENAREDD comprises the following main components: (i) public policies and legal framework; (ii) financing schemes; (iii) institutional arrangements; (iv) monitoring, reporting, verification and baseline; (v) social and environmental safeguards; (vi) communication and capacity building; and (vii) social participation and transparency.
The Strategy is part of Mexico’s efforts to meet its international greenhouse gas emissions commitments contained in the Kyoto Protocol and, now, the Paris Agreement. As stated in Article 7, Section LXI of the General Law for Sustainable Forestry Development (the “LGDFS”), “[f]Forest ecosystems function as carbon sinks providing environmental services of absorption, sequestration, fixation and storage of carbon dioxide.
By establishing the conservation of forests and mangroves, and therefore avoiding emissions, the Strategy aims not only to combat climate change, but also to guarantee the quality of life of human communities. This includes safeguarding the provision of environmental services that enable food production and protection against natural disasters, among others. As also stated in Article 7, Section LXI of the LGDFS, “[b]benefits provided by ecosystems” include “the provisioning, regulating, supporting or cultural services, and which are necessary for the survival of the natural and biological system as a whole, and which provide benefits to humans”.
In accordance with ENAREDD policies, parties wishing to offset their avoided emissions can register a project under the Strategy’s voluntary market. To achieve this, a holistic sequestered emissions monitoring and tracking program should be developed by the country to ensure that double counting of emissions is avoided. This is why the LGDFS requires the creation of a “national monitoring system, in order to evaluate and systematize the reduction of emissions derived from actions to prevent and combat deforestation and the degradation of forest ecosystems” . How avoided emissions are counted and their benefits distributed among those claiming credits remains to this day one of the challenges in implementing the Strategy, leaving projects with a level of uncertainty. This is because, according to the Strategy, the nation (through the federal government) will be the beneficiary of payments resulting from avoided emissions. This, of course, is problematic for project developers and can discourage new ones.
With regard to blue carbon projects (those focused on the protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems as a means of reducing the impacts of climate change), under ENAREDD, the protection of mangroves is an essential part of the project. avoidance of emissions, because Mexico has the fourth largest of this type of ecosystem in the whole world. Regarding the protection of mangroves, they are considered a wildlife species under Mexican law. Therefore, they are subject to specific provisions regarding protection and use established in: (i) the General Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and its Regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment; the environment ; (ii) the General Wildlife Law and its regulations; (iii) Mexican Official Standard NOM-022-SEMARNAT-2003, “[t]which establishes the specifications for the preservation, conservation, sustainable use and restoration of coastal wetlands in mangrove areas”; and (iv) the LGDFS.
On the above, among other applicable requirements, blue carbon projects must comply with the “Additionality” criterion, which requires that the resources resulting from the carbon credits are necessary to achieve the desired emissions avoidance; therefore, the mentioned mangrove protections pose certain challenges as they need to be preserved by law.
Projects in Mexico
According information published by Mexican authorities, the country’s REDD+ projects include the states of Jalisco, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatán and Chiapas. In addition, the State of Mexico, Michoacán and Oaxaca have recently started implementing REDD+ projects in their territories. Similarly, the National Forestry Office has published a short listing ongoing projects developed within the framework of the REDD+ mechanism.
Within the framework of the aforementioned Mexican legislation aimed at reducing deforestation and forest degradation, some international entities have developed projects for the conservation and restoration of mangroves in several places in the country, which are in progress, but have not yet been completed. summer, certified.
The LGDFS and the General Climate Change Act (“LGCC”) regulate carbon capture and avoided emissions projects under ENAREDD. With regard to the LGCC, one of its objectives is to “regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases and compounds so that Mexico contributes to stabilizing their concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference. in the climate system.
The LGDFS was recently amended by the Federal Congress to allow owners and rightful possessors of forest lands to offset or transfer emissions credits in national and international voluntary markets in accordance with the general provisions established by the Ministry of the Environment and of Natural Resources (“SEMARNAT”) . However, the legal scope to be given by the latter remains unclear, and the amendments generate gray areas.
The guidelines for implementing these changes have yet to be published by SEMARNAT. One of the main concerns of project developers is that, given ENAREDD’s positions on the issue, the general guidelines may limit the ability of landowners to realize the benefits of avoided emissions. SEMARNAT’s final guidelines and their eventual implementation remain to be seen, but need to be watched closely as they will impact emissions avoidance projects in the future.