Without the ability to measure emissions, it’s difficult to understand which sectors are contributing most to climate change and make plans to reduce those emissions. This is an issue that the Under2 Coalition’s Climate Footprint Project has been working to solve.
Over the last year we’ve been working with ten states and regions, mainly in South America, to support them in building emissions inventories and therefore pathways to cut emissions from their most polluting industries.
Leading the charge in Latin America
One of the project governments - Antioquia - has now created two tools that calculate greenhouse gas emissions. This is part of ongoing efforts by the Secretary of agriculture and rural development in Antioquia, which has the third highest emissions in Colombia after the states of Meta and Caquetá.
The Government of Antioquia was the first Colombian state to declare a climate emergency, in February 2020. It did so in recognition of a number of interlinked environmental issues in its municipality, including:
- High deforestation rates
- Regular fires
- Coastal erosion
- Water shortages
- Loss of biodiversity
- Inadequate waste management
- Poor air quality
Building new tools
After attending online and face-to-face workshops, environmental consultants at Ecoversa – our local project partner - began work on a tool to cut emissions in Antioquia, based on data and assumptions provided by the Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock.
These tools calculate emissions reductions in waste and agricultural systems, which both have a considerable impact on the local environment.
The first emissions calculation tool is used to estimate methane emissions associated with the anaerobic digestion of municipal organic waste.
Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, which can warm the atmosphere over 80 times faster than longer-lived carbon dioxide over the course of 20 years. Climate scientists therefore consider it vital that these emissions are cut to slow, or halt, global temperature rises.
Using existing data, the team was able to map out a baseline of emissions being produced from solid waste disposal in Antioquia. Data was captured on the way waste is managed, the local climate of the waste site and the amount of waste processed.
In order to reduce methane emissions, plans have now been developed for an alternative treatment process through anaerobic digestion and the collection of methane gas for later use. The tool estimates how effective this process will be in cutting emissions and so informs the government of the best approach to tackling the issue.
Intensive farming is responsible for significant global emissions each year, and one way suggested to mitigate this is by implementing silvopastoral systems. This is where grazed land is planted at intervals with vegetation in order to capture carbon dioxide emissions and enhance biodiversity.
The silvopastoral element of Antioquia’s tool aims to estimate the emissions that could be saved through small-scale afforestation and reforestation efforts (outside of wetlands) in the region. This is done by comparing a baseline scenario of emissions on deforested grazing land against emissions saved if that land were to be planted up with trees and shrubs.
Once all data has been inputted, the tool estimates the concentration of greenhouse gases saved each year through these newly created carbon sinks. When each figure is added together it demonstrates the combined impact of changing farming practices when it comes to fighting climate change. This in turn can steer government policy and help identify more sites to target. Having comprehensive environmental data also makes it possible to map out the region
Working with existing systems
Antioquia shared its tools with colleagues from the Regional Hub Node of Climate Change (Nodos de Cambio Climatico) in Antioquia in August, during an in-person workshop of the Climate Footprint Project. As a result, two regional corporations – CORANTIOQUIA and CORNARE - expressed an interest in adopting them as part of their existing systems.
CORNARE already has its own measuring platform for public institutions and private companies, and the new tools could be adapted to this platform, which will now be used across Antioquia and not just in CORNARE’s jurisdiction. The Mayor's office in Medellin has also considered how the tools could be used independently there.
The project tools on waste and silvopastoral systems also support Antioquia’s broader work measuring emissions to reach the targets set out in the region’s integrated territorial climate change management plan (PICCA). The PICCA compiles adaptation and mitigation measures and actions that must be implemented by Antioquia’s environmental regional corporations, civil society and other institutions.
Taking the next steps
On 21 and 22 September this year, Antioquia hosted a regional COP as part of Climate Week NYC. During this event, the state reached consensus on sectoral climate targets and announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2050.
As a member of the Race to Zero, Antioquia also intends to develop a new emissions reduction pathway over the next 12 months to accelerate its progress towards reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.