Carbon credits and fires | Opinion

In Portugal we assume that it is best to have a fire ban policy. However, there are some countries where it is legal to set fires in order to manage and minimize the potential impact caused by fires that occur during the hottest times.

Australia is an example where traditional fire management techniques are used in a scientific and controlled manner, in order to create, in advance, zones that, when burned, will prevent larger fires from proliferating in heights of greater heat.

In Brazil, a decree-law is also awaiting approval – National Integrated Fire Management Policy – which makes room for the use of traditional fire management techniques, thus giving a legal character to the placement of fires, in a controlled manner, in the “cooler” heights.

controlled fire exercise
Nelson Garrido

One can read in this Brazilian policy that “the use of fire will be allowed in places where the peculiarities justify it for agrosilvopastoral practices and with prior authorization. Other situations are for scientific research approved by a recognized institution; for the practice of preventing and fighting fires; in the subsistence culture of indigenous peoples, quilombola or traditional communities and family farmers; and for the training of forest brigade members. In the case of highway and railway right-of-way, it will be possible to use fire to reduce vegetable combustible material and prevent forest fires, but containment measures must be adopted in accordance with resolutions of the National Committee for Integrated Fire Management, created by the text.”

The University of Darwin and the University of Lisbon, Instituto de Agronomia have been developing work on this matter in African, Asian and Latin American countries, adapting the existing approach in Australia to these contexts. The results have been excellent, and have proven that, with an integrated fire management, the burned areas decrease.

The existence of these techniques, as well as laws that substantiate them, can provide the creation of credits of carbonwhich result from gases with Greenhouse effect which are no longer emitted due to the implementation of these integrated management techniques.

In Australia there is already a market for carbon credits, where avoided emissions resulting from “prevented fires”, through these methods, are recognized and valued by the market. This appreciation stems essentially from the co-benefits that are created in society such as job creation, protection and conservation of nature, food production, etc.

In these countries, the focus of these co-benefits is very much associated with the indigenous population and therefore in Portugal we can think that this approach does not apply. However, it is not like that. In Portugal it makes sense to think about the voluntary carbon market – whose decree-law for the creation of this market in Portugal is currently in public consultation – also at the service of the people.

Incidentally, it makes sense to create a voluntary carbon market that essentially rewards populations for the conservation services and avoided emissions that they manage to perform. Obviously, this market will have to generate enough value to cover the investments made by all stakeholders and to generate some profitability as well, but above all we must not forget that a voluntary carbon market is more than a source of revenue: it is a way of generating income that must be, for the most part, reinvested in green projects that help the well-being of communities and that contribute to the effective decarbonization of the economy.

The author writes according to the new spelling agreement

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