A Carbon Neutral City in Guatemala

Once again, Guatemala is proving itself a global leader of sustainability. 

In recent years, the forest concessions in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) have become a model of successful sustainable forest enterprise for the world, maintaining an astonishing near-zero deforestation rate while improving local livelihoods. And now the nearby municipality of Flores has stepped up to become an urban leader of low-carbon emissions. With the support of the Rainforest Alliance and USAID’s Climate, Communities, and Nature in Guatemala (CNCG) and Low Emissions Development projects, Flores aims to become a carbon-neutral municipality by 2020.

Under the Flores Huella Cero (Zero Footprint Flores) Initiative, led by Flores—a municipality in the reserve, which is situated in the northern state of Petén—we are working to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) at the local level, while also promoting sustainable economic development and a better quality of life for Flores’s residents.

"We have to stop being passive and work for our municipality and the planet, building on existing awareness to fight for the environment,” Flores Mayor Carlos René Caal said. He added, “This project will put us in front of the world as a pioneer of carbon-neutrality—which in turn will bring us more tourism and development, making us a stronger community.”

The three-year project will be realized in two phases: the first will focus on reducing GHGs in public services like waste management and public spaces (by, for example, installing LED lighting), as well as in major private services like transport and tourism. Once this phase is complete, actions such as the sustainable management of forests, good livestock farming practices, and reforestation of degraded areas will be implemented.

"This project will put us in front of the world as a pioneer of carbon-neutrality."

Flores Mayor Carlos René Caal

In the weeks since the project launched in February, the Rainforest Alliance has conducted trainings for journalists and technicians in the municipality; we’re also developing a methodology to set a baseline for Flores’s current emissions. The initiative’s participants are also identifying key actors in tourism, ranching, construction, and commerce that could benefit from trainings on the opportunities that such carbon-neutral efforts generate.

"The implementation of development strategies with low emissions at the municipal level is an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a national level—as well as improving the economic and social conditions of the population,” said Luis Alberto Castañeda, director of USAID’s Low Emissions Development.

Through this initiative, Flores expects to win recognition from the Guatemalan government as a carbon-neutral city. The Rainforest Alliance’s Guatemala director, Oscar Rojas, explains, "Achieving carbon-neutral status will make Flores an example to the country and demonstrate that it’s possible to achieve low-emissions development. Such efforts will also generate improvements to the communities’ quality of life, bringing more tourism to this lovely place that holds so much history and natural beauty."

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