Escritório Regional da FAO para a América Latina e o Caribe

Latin America and the Caribbean is the second largest producer of coal in the world

FAO report calls for more efficient production and use of charcoal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Brasil no sólo es el mayor productor en la región, sino el país que produce más carbón vegetal en todo el mundo.

23 March 2017, Santiago, Chile - According to a new FAO report, Latin America and the Caribbean at the global level is only surpassed by Africa in terms of per capita production and use of charcoal.

The FAO report, The Charcoal Transition, points out that Latin America and the Caribbean produced about 8.9 million tons of coal in 2015, surpassed only by Africa, which produced 62 percent, 32 million tons.

Brazil is not only the largest producer in the region, but the country that produces the most charcoal in the world: it generated 6.2 million tons in 2015, 12% of global production.

More than 90 percent of wood-derived coal in Brazil is used by the industrial sector, with the metallurgical industry using 80 percent of the total.

In other countries of the region, however, coal is mainly used in the food industry and in households.

Coal production and greenhouse gas emissions

According to the FAO report, in 2010, about 7% of Latin America's primary energy needs were covered by energy from wood.

In 2010, Latin America and the Caribbean emitted 371 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2), using wood and coal, 297 million tons came from wood and 74 million tons of CO2 from the use and production of coal.

FAO called on governments to create a political incentives and attractive investment enviroment for the transition to a greener charcoal sector.

According to the study The transition of coal, at a global level, a switch from traditional stoves or kilns to modern and efficient furnaces for coal production could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent.

The transition from traditional to state-of-the-art improved kitchens could reduce emissions by around 60 percent globally.

"It is important to ensure that the source of wood for coal production is sustainable, which means to stop logging native forests to produce energy," said Jorge Meza, FAO Forestry Officer.

Forests in Central America are an important source of energy

About half the population in Central America, approximately 22.5 million people, depend on firewood and coal to meet their basic energy needs. According to FAO, fuelwood consumption in Central America in 2013 reached 42.5 million cubic meters.

The largest percentage of fuelwood consumption is for cooking food and to a lesser extent it is used as heating for homes and in small industry.

Fuelwood is the primary source of energy for rural families in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, with approximately 18 million inhabitants depending on this resource.

According to the Environmental Profile and Environmental Accounts System of Guatemala, 95% of the wood consumed in Guatemala is extracted uncontrolled. Of this volume, 76% is used for firewood and 24% for other uses.

The Government of Guatemala has developed plans for the sustainable use of firewood and a national strategy and policy for the sustainable use of this energy resource, headed by  the National Forestry Institute, INAB.

In Honduras, fuelwood consumption covered 43 percent of the country's energy matrix in the period 2005-2011. The government of the country promotes the "Better Life" social program that encourages the use of eco-stoves, earmarking USD 20 Millions of dollars annually to provide clean stoves to 800 thousand poor families by 2018 to reduce the negative impacts of non-efficient use of firewood on human health and the environment.

State of forest resources in the region

According to FAO, Latin America and the Caribbean has 935.5 million hectares of forest, 23.4 percent of the world's forest area, representing 36 percent of global carbon stocks in living biomass (107 Gigatonnes)

50 percent of these resources are primary forests, 48 ​​percent are naturally regenerated forests and 2 percent are plantations.

The picture is very different at the subregional level: while 45 percent of the Mesoamerican forests are primary and 54 percent of the Amazon, only 3 percent of the forests in the Caribbean are primary forests, a percentage that reaches 15 % Percent in South America.

Most of the forests in the Caribbean and the Amazon are publicly owned, while in Mesoamerica and the Southern Cone, private property is prized. According to FAO, only 15 percent of the region's forests have a management plan.