FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

The greatest potential for reducing carbon emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean lies in its forests

New FAO report calls on countries of the region to adopt climate smart measures and increase the capacity of forests to sequester carbon.

According to the SOFA, forestry accounts for the bulk of potential mitigation of climate change in Latin America.

October 17, 2016, Santiago, Chile - The net conversion of forest land to other uses represents the main source of emissions of greenhouse gases in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a new FAO report, The State of the food and agriculture.

According to the SOFA, forestry accounts for the bulk of potential mitigation of climate change in Latin America.

This potential lies mainly in reducing deforestation, which is complicated by the expansion of agricultural crops and livestock, the major sectors driving the loss and degradation of forests at a regional level.

Globally, agriculture (including forestry, fisheries and livestock) generates about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions.

The new FAO report notes that the three main sources of greenhouse gase emissions from agriculture in 2014 in Latin America and the Caribbean were: enteric fermentation-the gas produced in the digestive systems of ruminants (58%), manure left in pastures (23%) and synthetic fertilizers (6%).

Therefore, FAO has made a global call for governments to implement rapid changes in food and agricultural systems to deal with climate change, which should go hand in hand with national commitments to eradicate hunger and poverty.

These changes include practices such as efficient use of fertilizers, promoting diets that are not based on animal products because their production exerts a strong pressure on natural resources, reducing food losses and waste, and the necessary support for family farmers and small scale producers.

Possible effects of climate change in the region

The SOFA report notes that climate change will affect crops and livestock in the region in various ways. While in the temperate zones it may increase the productivity of soybean, wheat and pastures, drier soils and thermal stress may reduce productivity in tropical and subtropical regions.

In addition to the above, greater salinization and desertification are expected in arid zones of Chile and Brazil, while rainfed agriculture in semiarid areas may face major crop losses.

FAO also predicts that climate change will decrease the primary production of fish in the tropical Pacific and some fish species will move south. The increased frequency of storms, hurricanes and cyclones may hurt aquaculture and fisheries in the Caribbean, and changes in temperature can alter the physiology of the species of freshwater fish and generate sinking in coral reef systems.

As for forests, the SOFA report highlights that in the Amazon there will be increased risk of frequent fires, a loss in forest area and a conversion of these areas into savannahs. In Central America, climate change puts 40% of mangrove species in threat of extinction.

Climate change and hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean

A complementary report to the SOFA, Climate change and food and nutrition security in Latin America and the Caribbean, published today by the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, points out that climate change can affect the four dimensions of food security and threaten the achievements that countries have made in their fight against hunger and poverty.

Climate change can affect the stability of food security due to greater uncertainty about the productive performance of agricultural activities, household income and food prices.

In the case of availability, climate change can directly affect food production, with the possible decrease in the quantity and variety of available food. Climate shocks in major producing areas could have severe implications on trade, affecting the international food supply.

In addition, climate change may influence the access dimension of food and nutrition security, because the income families receive can vary if their livelihoods depend on the agricultural sector, or if labor demand for wage labor in agriculture falls, impacting their ability to purchase food.

Climate change may also affect food utilization, generating significant changes in the diets of the population, due to a subpar food offer or the abandonment of healthy eating patterns, which could have negative consequences on nutrition.

Prominent regional initiatives

Both the climate and agriculture in the region will not be the same after climate change: forecasts indicate that by the end of the XXI century there will be a great variation in the level of rainfall in South America, with very heterogeneous changes: while in the northeastern region of Brazil there may be a 22% reduction in rainfall, while in the southeastern part of South America rain my be increased by 25%.

Aware of these risks, virtually all countries in the region have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, which comes into force on November 4th. In addition, governments are integrating their efforts to end hunger with those of mitigation and adaptation to climate change through initiatives such as the Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication 2025 of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC.

At the country level, this include sinitiatives such as the Payment for Environmental Services of Costa Rica, which provides financial incentives to forest owners and plantations that provide environmental protection services.

Other similar projects are the Socio Forest Programme of Ecuador and the Grant Program for the Insurance Premiums in Rural Insurance in Brazil, initiatives that promote resilience of smallholder farmers in the social, environmental and economic areas, to reduce rural poverty and promote food security of farmers by improving their access to food.