Forests are at the forefront of Bolivia’s revised Nationally Determined Contribution - In conversation with Humberto Gomez Cervero

Forests are at the forefront of Bolivia’s revised Nationally Determined Contribution - In conversation with Humberto Gomez Cervero

Bolivia - 14 July, 2021
Koen KustersKoen Kusters

Crucial to the success of the Paris Agreement are the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in which countries describe their climate goals and the ways they intend to achieve them. Governments revise their NDCs every five years, reflecting the highest possible ambitions.

Bolivia’s revised NDC is in its final stage, and will be presented in the coming months, well ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November. Forests continue to feature prominently in this document, and that is partly the result of the work of the Bolivian Forest Research Institute (Instituto Boliviano de Investigación Forestal — IBIF).

IBIF is a well-recognized and widely respected organization, with a longstanding history of studying and supporting community-based sustainable forest management in Bolivia. As a partner of the Tropenbos Network, one of IBIF’s ambitions is to strengthen the role of forests and trees in Bolivia’s revised NDC. Early 2021, the Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth — the government agency responsible for climate change — asked IBIF for help with the revision. Here, Koen Kusters talks with Humberto Gomez Cervero from IBIF, who has been working closely with the national authority since.

Why did the government ask IBIF for help with revising the NDC?

In 2020 we conducted an evaluation of the previous NDC. At the beginning of this year, we presented the results of that evaluation to the Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth. They must have liked our work, because a week after the presentation they called to invite us to review their concept NDC revision, provide comments, and help with updating the section about forests.

What have you been able to contribute?

The previous NDC had indicators related to community forestry, forestry production, conservation of key areas for ecosystem functions, and poverty reduction. In our view, these are all crucial to achieve mitigation and adaptation objectives. However, some people within the government and some civil society organizations had doubts whether these indicators should be part of the revision, so we worked to convince the national authority to keep these ambitions in the NDC. Next to that, we also managed to add new components to the commitments. Most notably, an indicator for the reduction of the area affected by fires was added, as well as a new section about the implementation mechanism.

SUB: Impact of forest fires in 2020 in Lomerio, Bolivia

Let’s start with the fires. Why was it important to include them in the NDC?

In Bolivia, fires are commonly used by cattle ranchers and shifting cultivators to clear the land. Sometimes they spiral out of control, and become wildfires. Climate change causes more intense dry periods and exacerbates the wildfires. The year 2019 was particularly bad, with many areas of forest being burnt for the first time, resulting in carbon emissions and threatening people’s livelihoods. It is clear we need to do something about this, but the use of fire is an integral part of the culture and practices of many people, so the main goal is not to prohibit the use of fire altogether. Instead, we need to use it in a smarter way. Much can already be achieved by changing the timing of the fires. This means that farmers and ranchers will need to plan their burning practices more carefully. It also means that the government should carefully consider climatic conditions when giving permissions for the use of fire. Clearly, in a dry and windy week, they should not give out burning permits. This is a clear example of an adaptation practice that also contributes to mitigation objectives, in the spirit of Bolivia's joint mechanism. We think it is a major step forward that the reduction of wildfires is now included as an explicit ambition in the NDC.

You mentioned that the revised NDC also includes a new section about the implementation mechanism. Can you elaborate on that?

The previous NDC indicated ambitions, including those related to forests, but it did not provide any details on how these were going to be put into practice. There was a need to include information on how those goals were going to be achieved. We have therefore been stressing that the so-called Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism, which the government had developed as an alternative to REDD+, would be adopted as the leading implementation mechanism for the NDC. The mechanism is embedded in the Bolivian law, and can be used to set change processes in motion.

How does that relate to IBIF’s work with the communities in the landscapes?

One of our focus landscapes, in the Guarayos region, will be a showcase within the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism. There, we aim to create local commitment, establish a platform of local stakeholders, and develop a financial mechanism providing positive incentives for sustainable community-based forest management, resulting in both mitigation and adaptation. Under the mechanism, we can access funds for this type of work, and it will be easier to get the commitment of local authorities. In this way we think our landscape work can function as an inspiring example for many other landscapes in Bolivia, and will help to achieve the ambitions set in the NDC. 

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