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Forests and Energy: A Guide to Reporting on Net Zero in Argentina

Forestry in Argentina

This tipsheet was created to introduce journalists to the energy sector and the role of forests in Argentina's journey to Net Zero. This resource is also available in Spanish here. 

Introduction to net zero

Net zero (also known as carbon neutrality or carbon neutral) refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and the amount that is offset, removed or absorbed. Achieving this state of equilibrium involves a considerable challenge that requires specific actions.

Net zero implies matching the emissions released with those that can be absorbed, eliminated or offset. Actions to achieve this are diverse and include the significant increase of renewable energies in the energy matrix, the preservation of forests or the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices, among other complementary strategies.

The importance of this goal lies in its contribution to climate change mitigation. Limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5°C or 2°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement, requires not only reducing emissions, but also achieving carbon neutrality. Achieving net-zero status is crucial to avoid catastrophic climate impacts, such as sea level rise, extreme weather events and biodiversity loss.

Argentina, like other countries, faces significant challenges in relation to climate change and carbon emissions. Although Argentina's emissions have historically been relatively low compared to industrialized nations, the country is affected by the impacts of climate change, such as more intense droughts, floods and changes in precipitation patterns.

Forests

1.1 Importance of forests in carbon sequestration

Forests play a crucial role in carbon capture and storage. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and convert it into organic matter, storing carbon in their biomass and in the soil. This process contributes to climate change mitigation by helping to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and stabilize the global climate.

This ability of forests to act as carbon sinks underscores their importance in efforts to achieve carbon neutrality.

One thing to keep in mind is that the carbon sequestration rate of forests varies according to ecosystem type, tree age and health, as well as forest management practices. Well-conserved forests tend to have a higher carbon sequestration capacity compared to degraded or disturbed forests. 

In this regard, a research team focused on studying the role of forests in mitigating and adapting to climate change. 

In order to better understand how much carbon native forests can store, this team conducted a study whose results were published in the journal Nature. According to the study, current global forest carbon storage is estimated at 328 gigatons.

To reach this conclusion, experts from more than 200 science and technology institutions in 45 countries collected data from 1,188,771 forest plots around the world. These measurements included tree diameter, tree density and biomass, and used models that combine carbon measurements with data on climate, soil, topography, forest cover and human disturbances.

For Argentina, the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) contributed to the study by providing information through permanent plots located in lenga and ñire forests. These plots are part of the network "Parcelas de Ecología y Biodiversidad de Ambientes Naturales en Patagonia Austral" (PEBANPA).

Forests in Argentina

Argentina's native forests cover an area of approximately 47.9 million hectares, distributed in seven distinct forest regions. These regions include the Chaqueño Park, the Yungas, the Paranaense Forest, the Monte, the Espinal, the Andean Patagonian Forest, and the Paraná River Delta and Islands.

The Chaqueño Park region has the largest area of native forests, representing 67% of the total, followed by the forests of the Espinal region, which comprise 12%. However, within each forest region, it is the forests, such as the Yungas and the Selva Paranaense, which occupy most of the native forest area, representing 68% and 61% respectively.

In total, native forests constitute approximately 12% of Argentina's area, providing important ecosystem services and harboring a great biodiversity. These forests are composed of a wide variety of native species, including red and white quebrachos, carob trees, lapachos, cedars, jacarandas and ñandubays, among others. The provinces with the largest extensions of native forests are Chaco, Formosa, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Misiones, Santa Fe and La Pampa.

map

 

Deforestation and emissions

Despite their ecological and climatic importance, forests face numerous threats and pressures that jeopardize their integrity and ability to store carbon. These threats include illegal deforestation, agricultural expansion, extensive cattle ranching, forest fires, indiscriminate logging, and habitat fragmentation due to infrastructure and urban development.

These activities cause biodiversity loss, soil degradation, genetic erosion and the release of large amounts of carbon stored in forest biomass. Deforestation, in particular, is a persistent problem in Argentina, especially in some regions, such as the Gran Chaco, where the loss of native forests continues unabated.

Furthermore, the destruction of forests is one of the main causes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This loss of forest cover has led to a drastic reduction in the stock of native forests. Of the original area of native forests in Argentina, today only less than 30% of these forests remain standing.

The rate of forest loss varied over time. Between 2007 and 2015, the rate of deforestation decreased from 0.94% to 0.34%. However, this progress was subsequently compromised, as from 2016 to 2018, the rate of deforestation increased again, endangering the integrity of native forests.

Despite the Forest Law, whose implementation has been incomplete since its enactment, forest destruction continues at a critical pace. According to data presented by Greenpeace, approximately one hectare of forest is lost every two minutes in Argentina, which underscores the need to strengthen measures for the conservation and protection of forest resources.

Policies for forests

Argentina has implemented several policies for the conservation and sustainable management of its forests. Among them is the Native Forest Law (Law 26.331), which establishes a legal framework for the protection, conservation and sustainable use of native forests and promotes the restoration of degraded areas.

It also prepared the National Action Plan for Forests and Climate Change (PANByCC), which, by 2030, commits the country to implement policies, measures and actions for the sustainable management of native forests, in order to reduce the vulnerability of these ecosystems and the communities that depend on them in the face of climate change.

The specific objectives proposed by the National Action Plan on Forests and Climate Change (PANByCC) focus on two main areas: adaptation and mitigation. 

In terms of adaptation, the aim is to reduce the vulnerability of native forests to climate change and strengthen the legal security of land tenure of local communities associated with these forests.

In terms of mitigation, the aim is to reduce emissions and increase GHG capture related to deforestation and degradation of native forests through appropriate land use planning, sustainable land use, and conservation and recovery of productive landscapes.

The set of mitigation measures and actions considered will contribute to a reduction of 27 MtCO2eq by 2030, which would represent significant progress towards meeting national emission reduction targets. Furthermore, it is estimated that, with additional measures and overcoming barriers to their implementation, reductions of up to 81 MtCO2eq could be achieved by 2030.

pie chart

 

The country also participates in international initiatives such as the REDD+ Program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which seeks to encourage forest conservation and the reduction of carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. 

The program seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Its function is to promote conservation, sustainable forest management and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. 

This mechanism seeks to recognize and provide positive incentives to developing countries to protect their forest resources, improve their management and use them in a sustainable manner in order to contribute to global efforts to address climate change and its consequences.

In this framework, carbon footprint offsetting implies, for example, that a person or a company offsets its GHG emissions by saving an endangered native forest. By acquiring this forest, a protected area is established or expanded, ensuring its long-term conservation through binding legal instruments such as conservation laws and agreements.

Protecting forests not only benefits in terms of carbon sequestration, but also preserves the unique biodiversity of these ecosystems and supports the local communities that depend on them. Protecting forests not only safeguards a valuable carbon sink, but also a vital habitat for countless plant and animal species, as well as a source of livelihood and culture for the communities that inhabit them.

Chacras "Las araucarias" (Araucarias)

The "Chacras Las Araucarias" project, of the Banco de Bosques Foundation, is located in the province of Misiones and comprises two farms, one of 36 hectares and the other of 25 hectares. Its main objective is the protection and conservation of native forests with a valuable carbon stock, as well as the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) through forest regeneration actions.

These farms stand out for their environmental importance and their potential to mitigate climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in the forest biomass. As part of this project, it is planned to donate both forests to National Parks, which will contribute to the expansion of the San Antonio Strict Nature Reserve. 

Energy

2.1. The Argentine energy sector

Argentina's energy sector is diverse and is comprised of various energy sources, including hydrocarbons, hydroelectric power, nuclear power, and to a lesser extent, renewable energies such as wind and solar. 

The country's energy matrix is historically dominated by fossil fuels, especially natural gas and oil, which account for the majority of electricity generation and energy consumption in general.

Carbon emissions associated with Argentina's energy sector account for more than half of the country's total GHG emissions and come mainly from electricity generation, transportation and industry. The dependence on fossil fuels in these sectors is a challenge for the reduction of emissions and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

13.9% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our country come from transportation. It is the second largest source of emissions in the energy sector, behind energy industries (according to the Fourth Biennial Update Report, IBA 4). Almost all of the 19.6 million transport units that make up the national fleet consume fossil fuels (99.67% of the energy required by the sector).

According to the report Lineamientos y Escenarios para la Transición Energética a 2050, dated May 2023, Argentina had an annual generation close to 140 TWh and 39.6 MM tCO2e in 2022. Argentina's electricity matrix is mainly thermal, followed by renewable (including large hydroelectric dams) and nuclear generation. The thermal component currently represents 59%, with natural gas as the main fuel.

The report states "The energy transition process finds Argentina with abundant hydrocarbon resources in its onshore and offshore basins. The development of renewable energies will be complemented by the boost to natural gas, which will be the transition fuel, to reduce GHG emissions through a reliable, affordable and continuous supply, while taking advantage of the country's resources." 

However, Argentina has significant renewable energy potential, especially in regions such as Patagonia, where winds are strong and constant, and in the northwest, where solar radiation is abundant. 

2.2. Progress towards decarbonization of the energy sector

Argentina has made some progress towards the decarbonization of its energy sector in recent years. One of the most important milestones was the enactment of the Renewable Energy Law (Law 27,191) in 2015, which sets ambitious goals to increase the share of renewable energies in the country's energy matrix to 20% by 2025.

The law also sets intermediate targets: 12% in 2019, 16% in 2021, 18% in 2023 and 20% in 2025.

In 2002, renewable energies accounted for only 0.5 % and by the end of 2020 they represented around 10-12 %. By 2022, 13.9 % of the total electricity demand will be supplied from renewable sources.

That year, in terms of generation, wind technology had the largest share, accounting for 73 % of electricity generation from renewable sources, followed by solar (15 %), bioenergy (6 %) and small hydroelectric (5 %), according to data from the Compañía Administradora del Mercado Mayorista Eléctrico Sociedad Anónima (CAMMESA).

infographic

 

Electricity generation by technology (2022)

Based on the Renewable Energy Law, the RenovAr Program was created in 2016, which seeks to incorporate 10,000 MW of renewable energy into the energy matrix by 2025. Since then, public auctions were held for the award of long-term contracts for the supply of renewable energy, which boosted the construction of wind, solar and biomass projects. 

Likewise, Law 27,424 on Distributed Generation enables electricity consumers to become generators from renewable energy sources for self-consumption and eventual injection of electricity to the grid.

Progress towards the decarbonization of the Argentine energy sector accelerated in the first years, but then this momentum slowed down. In this regard, the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) expressed in a document that analyzed the issue: "The main difficulties in relation to financing revolve around the macroeconomic situation for Argentina in 2018: the devaluation of the peso, inflation, the increase in country risk and political uncertainty. This hindered the arrival of investments due to economic-financial instability. Likewise, the investments that do arrive in the country demand high interest rates that make it difficult for project developers to access them."

Argentina can take advantage of the synergies between forest conservation and the transition to a low-carbon economy. The country's native forests are not only vital for carbon capture and storage, but also offer opportunities for renewable energy generation such as bioenergy from forest biomass. 

2.3. Some challenges

Despite the opportunities offered by the transition to carbon neutrality, there are also challenges that must be taken into account to ensure a fair and equitable transformation.

  • Socioeconomic inequalities: The transition to a low-carbon economy may exacerbate existing socioeconomic inequalities, especially in vulnerable communities dependent on carbon-intensive sectors. Social protection measures and job retraining programs need to be implemented to ensure a fair and equitable transition for all sectors of society.
  • Technological and financial barriers: The adoption of clean technologies and the implementation of climate projects can face significant technological and financial barriers. Lack of access to finance and shortage of technical capacity are some of the challenges that must be overcome to accelerate the transition to carbon neutrality.

    Political uncertainty: Lack of legal predictability may hinder climate change mitigation efforts by discouraging investments.

     

Story ideas on net zero, forests and energy

  1. Progress in Argentina's energy transition: policies and measures implemented by the country to move towards a net-zero model in the energy sector, highlighting achievements and pending challenges.
  2. Contribution of renewable energy to carbon neutrality: how the adoption of renewable energy is driving carbon emission reductions and its impact on the path to carbon neutrality.
  3. Forest conservation and carbon neutrality: exploring the role of forest conservation in Argentina's strategy to achieve carbon neutrality, highlighting successful projects.
  4. Bioenergy innovation for carbon neutrality: technological innovations in bioenergy, their potential to reduce carbon emissions and their application in the Argentine context.
  5. Sustainable forest management: a look at forest management, highlighting successful projects and areas where more action is needed to preserve forests and move towards carbon neutrality.
  6. Climate finance opportunities for sustainable energy projects: an analysis of available financing opportunities for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
  7. Public-Private Partnerships for carbon neutrality: how public-private partnerships can drive the transition to carbon neutrality.
  8. Social challenges in the transition to decarbonization in Argentina: challenges associated with the transition to a net-zero model, including climate equity and social justice.
  9. Sustainable Mobility: emissions reduction through public transportation with renewable energy.
  10. Communities and forest conservation: experiences of communities (indigenous or not) in forest preservation.

Some relevant sources of information

  • Secretariat of Tourism, Environment and Sports of the Ministry of the Interior. information on policies, programs and projects related to carbon neutrality and environmental conservation in the country can be found on its website - https://www.argentina.gob.ar/interior/ambiente 
  • Integrated Environmental Information System (SInIA): SInIA collects and disseminates information on the state of the environment in the country, including environmental monitoring reports, environmental impact studies and thematic maps that may be of interest to environmental journalists - https://ciam.ambiente.gob.ar/ 
  • Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA): INTA conducts research and publishes reports on issues related to forest conservation, sustainable agriculture and climate change - https://www.argentina.gob.ar/inta 
  • National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC): INDEC collects statistical data on forest production, carbon emissions and other relevant indicators for monitoring progress towards carbon neutrality in Argentina - https://www.indec.gob.ar/ 
  • Banco de Bosques: is a foundation that channels the contribution of small, medium and large donors to intervene in the real estate land market to save the last remaining native forests in Argentina - https://bancodebosques.org/ 
  • Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina: this non-profit organization works to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable practices, including climate change mitigation and carbon neutrality - https://www.vidasilvestre.org.ar/ 
  • Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN): Promotes the ambition of climate policies at national and international level in one of the greatest challenges facing humanity - https://farn.org.ar/ 
  • ProYungas: Fundación ProYungas is an NGO that works for the conservation of the environment and sustainable development, promoting territorial planning processes at different scales, actively linking production with the preservation of nature - https://proyungas.org.ar/ 
  • Argentine Wind Energy Association (AAEE): The AAEE brings together companies, professionals and experts in the wind energy sector in Argentina to promote the development of this renewable energy source - https://argentinaeolica.org.ar/ 
  • Red Argentina de Municipios frente al Cambio Climático (RAMCC): RAMCC brings together municipalities from all over the country to coordinate climate action and the reduction of carbon emissions at the local level - https://www.ramcc.net/ 

This tipsheet was produced by Damian Profeta in collaboration with Claves21, Earth Journalism Network and Periodistas Por El Planeta. 

Banner image: San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina/Credit: Alejandro Cuffia via Unsplash.