The Importance of G.I.S. (Geographic Information System) in the context of climatic changes.


Summary: The destruction of forests as well as its excessive use, mainly fossil fuel as energetic source for several sectors of the world economy have been altering the climate of the Earth in such way that, effective measures to control the quantity of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emitted had to be taken. Historically, the north hemisphere has contributed with 80% of the GHE (greenhouse gases) currently in the atmosphere. In the south hemisphere, the emissions have been increasing rapidly, forecast indicates that, kept the current level of growth, the emissions of GHE can overtake the north countries by 2015. As for the anthropogenic emissions, 70% would come from the burn of fossil fuels and 30% from the change of the Earth use. (Schwartzman & Moreira apud Ferretti,2001). The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 by COP (Conference of Parts) in the Climate Changes Convention, set maximum quantities of GHE emissions (Greenhouse gases) in the Earth atmosphere, for many developed countries in the north hemisphere. One of the alternatives created to reach the necessary reductions work as a compensatory measure, the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism), where developed countries can invest in projects to reduce de CO2 in the developing countries. Thus, the incentive to CDM projects in the developing countries meet the interests of these countries to avoid the reductions of GHE emissions come to prejudice the world growth targets forecasted to 2015. In Brazil, the advantages can be even bigger. The approval of CDM projects for reforestation can speed up the implementation of S.I.G technology (Geographic Information System) as well as MTF (Multifinalitary Technical Filing) at Brazilian territory. This article seeks to raise difficulties, advantages, disadvantages and the potential associated to S.I.G and the use of CDM (Clean Development Mechanism), in the Brazilian and world context.


Key words: SIG, MFT, Clean Development Mechanism - CDM, carbon credits.


            1 – The CDM in the carbon credit generation through reforestation

The Clean Development Mechanism created by COP (Conference of Parts) permits to transform tons of carbon that were not emitted, or which were kidnapped in the developing countries, into carbon credits. These credits could compensate the exceeding tons allowed by the Kyoto protocol, emitted by the developed countries.

The carbon market is represented by the CER´s (Certified Emission Reduction), which are issued certifications, for projects related to CDM in the developing countries, by tons of CO2 equivalently avoided or sequestrated (forested projects). The cost to implement a CDM project and the amount of reduction or sequestration  of CO2 reached will determine the cost and consequently the viability to issue the CER.

The actions which would cause greater CO2 reduction would be the ones coming from reforms in the energy sector, transportation, incentives to alternative energies use, management of residues and reforestation of forests and ecosystems considered carbon sinks.

As the Brazilian energy source is fundamentally based in hydroelectric power stations, these are cheaper and less pollutant compared to the ones base in fossil fuel. Therefore, CDM projects in the energy sector, in the case of Brazil, are less attractive. Investments in renewable energies are expensive, the increasing of carbon credits would only mitigate the costs.

The organic residue sectors, either  dumpsite or pig farming have been seen interesting to CDM projects, there already are approved methodologies and CER’s issued for those activities in Brazil.

The CDM projects for reforestation are the ones which present more economical viability with attractive return rates, nevertheless there is not a consensus regarding its efficacy for avoided deforestation.

To exchange industrial emission for credits generated by forest preservation (reduction of deforestation) seems risky, as the proposal for emission reduction in the industrialized countries would be prejudiced. These countries would buy the right to pollute, and being the Forest Carbon more economically attractive, corporative interests could approve projects that would result in more losses for the environment and local populations.

Initially the Kyoto protocol defined the CDM in terms of “emission reduction”, based in the intention to transfer clean technologies from industrialized countries to developing ones. By the insistence of the U.S.A, the inclusion of the term “emitted carbon sequestration” was included in the CDM, opening possibility to include forested carbon.

The Foreign Ministry of Brazil is against the inclusion of forests in the CDM, for conflicting, in a way, with the Brazilian sovereign over the Amazonas and other national ecosystems, such as mangroves and scrublands. These areas would be under the control and surveillance of the CDM Project certifiers, becoming untouchable during the validity of the project. The sequestrated carbon would be transforming into “carbon credits” on sale in the market. We also can not forget that there is distrust by the Brazilian government about a conspiracy to take Amazonas from Brazil.

The main environmental European NGO’s, among them the Greenpeace, are against the inclusion of the avoided deforestation in the CDM, whereas the NGO’s located in the United Stated are in favor.

The European NGO’s justify themselves in their natural resistance to the cultural and economical North America’s domination, but they can not forget that, what is at stake is the global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.

The majority of Brazilian environmentalists are favorable to the carbon credit generation with the avoided deforestation, in special the NGO’s located in Amazonas.

In this sense it is undeniable to affirm that keeping the tropical forests, besides avoiding aggravation of the greenhouse effect, it preserves biodiversity, the hydrologic cycle, local population and the sustainable use of natural resources.

After many negotiations, in July 2001, it was approved the inclusion of “carbon sequestration”, for the reforestation and outcrop of CDM projects, without including the already existing forests, at least during the first period of validity of the Kyoto Protocol, up to 2015.


2 – International Environmental Right and the definition of polluter-payer

By understanding the term “carbon sequestration” it becomes clearer when considering the definition of polluter-payer of the economic environmental right e the neoclassical economic theory. It refers to the solution of world environmental problems, within the cooperation principle, sharing responsibilities, of the polluter payer’s principle, paying by its use or the precaution principle, preventing damages.

1 - Reforestation – planting tress in deforested areas with less than 50 years – and outcroppings – planting in deforested areas with over 50 years, starting from 1990

The cost for a company   to decrease its emissions, through the improvement of its equipments and using latest technologies is extremely expensive. For example, it is worth mentioning the BP-AMOCO petroleum platforms that, in order to reduce one ton of carbon would cost U$ 150, whereas a reforestation project in Bolivia costs around U$ 0.15 according to environmental consultant Fujihara. (ARNT,2000). It means that it is much more advantageous to sequestrate carbon in developing countries than reducing emissions in its source, from industrialized countries.

 In this kind of trading it is interesting to analyze the fact that someone is profiting with this trade, but this issue is not being taken into consideration.

The creation of a carbon market, in the polluter-payer’s principle, should meet the international environmental right, where the certification cost would compensate the harm caused to the environment and the global society.

The flexibility of ways to reduce the CO2 emissions, through the creation of a carbon market, has showed clearly the interest of potentially polluting companies, located in the north hemisphere, to transform what would be an environmental-political issue into an economic issue.

Unfortunately, the compensation principle through carbon sequestration is not enough to compensate the harm already caused. Only through a preventive policy, based in the protection of natural resources we could minimize the human effects over the environment.

Preventive actions will lead us to the issue of sustainability, the principle of sustainable development, that, according to major entrepreneur institutions and financing institution are not economically viable.

3 – Carbon sequestration in Brazil

In Brazil, the opportunities originated with carbon sequestration are arousing interest to groups with different positions in relation to the new market.

a)     the ones which are favorable to the carbon market, related to industry and commerce. The timber sector and energetic of biomass, for example, which expect financing from GHE emission industries for reforestation projects. These would be mercantilist projects;

b)      the conservatives, who seek for secondary environmental benefits, but like the timber sector, also seek international corporations to finance their preservation projects for carbon credits generation;

c)      the ones who have a developmental sight, concerned with CDM’s main principle that would be to promote sustainable development, in which social and environmental issues are priorities.

The carbon credits, generated through carbon sequestration or from reduction of emissions, represent a big environmental market that is coming up. It is impressive the presence of the private sector leading and anticipating decisions of Kyoto Protocol. The flexibility of the environmental management policies, such as the possibility of using the payer-polluter principle, for example, have been generating great interests by international corporations to approve policies for carbon sequestration and market of emissions.

The trend of approving mercantilist projects, where the generation of bonus would come from plantation of fast growth exotic plants e for the use of timber industries is alarming, for they would be occupying areas that could be giving priorities to conservationist projects, where the preservation of the local environment, the biodiversity and the populations’ social needs would be priorities. The chart 1 shows the several ways to obtain forestial carbon.

Chart 1 – Brazilian Forestial Projects for CDM Credits


The generation of reduced carbon credits, that is, coming from the reduction of emissions, in Brazil, at this moment is little viable, with exceptions the ones coming from organic residues. As our energy source is hydroelectric power plants, nowadays we emit little GHE from this sector, along the time, with the demand increase and the restrictions in expanding this form of generating power, the tendency is to use residues and biomass in activities of power industrial cogeneration. The credits from CDM projects for clean energy generation must be explored, even not being profitable for the private sector, the credit increment can boost this sector.  Chart 2 shows the Brazilian potential for energy CDM projects.

Chart 2 – Brazilian Energy Opportunities for CDM market

The forestial carbon and the one originated from emission’s reductions in the energy sector have their viability based mainly with the prices of land and petroleum. For that reason the market is variable, and it can, according to the situation, make viable one sector to the detriment of the other. Nowadays the sustainable handling of national forests is more attractive to the carbon market than the others, but in the case of a carbon’s price devaluation, the MDL market will migrate to industrial cogeneration.

Taking into consideration the secondary benefits, there are more attractive options, the handling of native forests and eolic energy could provide more meaningful benefits to environment and contribute to the development of Brazil.

4 – The potential for MDL in Brazil

The dimension that MDL will reach is of interest for all Kyoto’s Protocol participating countries, the amount of reduction in emission and the financial flow due to these transactions are of big interest. Not only the developed countries but also the developing ones want to know how many CER’s would be issued and at what price. The developed countries wonder how much will cost to follow the reduction’s targets, and the developing countries the amount of financial resources that shall come from MDL projects.

The impacts generated by the several options of MDL project applications are represented in the chart 3, there is a hope that these researches would help governs to define national priorities for MDL projects.

Chart 3 – General Indexes of Brazilian’s Main Options for MDL


5 – Emission's reduction forecasts

The investors in carbon credits, even knowing the costs of several options for emission’s reduction, will invest up to the limit of their own costs to reduce in the source of their emissions. This generates a correspondence between the cost for obtaining CER’s and their market price, and the market is ruled by the value of the last emission reductions demanded by developed countries. The chart 4 shows the projections for 2010 of the emission reduction activities.


Chart 4 – Projections for 2010 for emission reduction



6 – The territorial Management and difficulties found in Brazil to approve a CDM Project for reforestation.


The approval of a CDM Project goes through many stages, called cycles, since presenting the project to the Executive Committee then going through Validation/Registration, Monitoring, Verification/Certification and Issuing. The length of this cycle varies according to the kind of project, and the minimum time is around two years.

The base scenery, or base line (deforested areas up to 31/12/1989) in the case of arrest, should be established in a transparent way, using methodologies, parameters, data, sources additional things that can be proved.

The lack of MTF (Multifinalitary Technical Filing), in great part of Brazilian territory, will make it difficult to Brazil approve CDM projects for reforestation. On the other hand, it can serve also as a booster to have it implanted, speeding up the georeferencing process of Brazilian territory.

The use of S.I.G technology to define and limit potential areas to receive investments through the carbon credit generation should be part of the methodology for validation and management of a CDM project for reforestation.


7-  SIG and Territorial Management

The social and economical development presuppose the need to have full knowledge of the territory and its spatial arrangement, so to allow action planning, besides making it possible to organize the society’s relations with its respective territory. To know the territory aiming its management should be the priority of planning. In this way the need for a consistent, efficient, updated technical file becomes vital before any management action.

In order to have consistency in this file, it is necessary to create a safe and reliable cartographic base, through the use of equipments and know how which permit the properties’ georeferencing in an accurate way. In this context there is the need to establish standards and norms in the use of equipments for data collection regarding the territory physical lay-out. With the technology evolution in producing these equipments, it is vital to establish norms for precision in the gathered data, in order to guarantee quality in the generated information, thus assuring reliability in the use of generated information.

            With the technological advance of equipments to territory’s spatial approach, allowing in such way a variety of gathering techniques, it makes necessary to clarify some pertinent questions to these gathering techniques before coming to the matter of equipments and methods for georeferencing.

            The conventional techniques are the ones which use angular, linear and difference in level measurements using, respectively, theodolite, level and distant meters and their several combinations and calculations associated.

Although these conventional techniques are generically called topographies, this classification does not wish to generate ambiguity related with its finality. In this seminar, topographic surveys will be understood as operations aiming to gather topographic surface information, its natural and cultural accidents, the land lay-out and its precise location. It is not justified, therefore the counterposing between topographic and geodesic survey have these distinct finalities.

With the advent and popularization of surveys using artificial satellites this distinction loses its meaning. Once the obtained results by this technology are located at geodesic dominium, this means that, implicitly, the coordinates obtained in such way have already undergone to ellipsoidal reductions, whether expressed in Cartesian coordinates, geographic or any geodesic or cartographic projection.

Its is also usual to refer to topographic survey the ones that are  done taking as reference a local topographic plan in opposition to geodesic surveys. this is one of the biggest cartographic mistakes, once we miss the single referential. In the case of rural estate’s georeferencing, the use of a local topographic plan as reference to the development of coordinate calculus, area, azimuth and distance are not adequate, independently to the dimension of a given estate.

8- Identification and Recognizing the Estate Limits 

The rural estate limit’s identification and recognition is a task that necessarily precedes the measurement stage. Its aim is to make sure there are no mistakes along the way.

The estate’s limit identification process should start by collection and rigorous evaluation of its documentation, especially the estate’s description at the Estate Notary Office and the technical documentation from INCRA, especially eventual coordinates already determined and certified by this autarchy, according to law 10.267/01. This evaluation should extend to all neighbor estates.

Common vortices to two or more rural estates should keep, at the end of services, their respective locations described by the same pair of coordinates.

            8.1 – Limit identification

            Following up are some definitions which help to delimitate a rural estate, where the existing documentation does not allow establishing its perfect identification, existing many kinds of limits:

a-     Dry line:

It is characterized by border among estates not defined by geographical or physical accidents. Its materialization comes from human intervention through fences, canals, walls and others.

b-     - Roads

In the rural estates bordering federal, state or municipal roads, the identification of its limits should be according to the dominium strip set by a competent institution (DNIT, DER etc) or specific legislation.

c - Railroad

At estates bordering railroads, there should be observed the dominium strip of the given road, set by a competent institution (RFFSA, FEPASA etc).


d – Transmission Power Line, Oil pipeline, Gas pipeline, Optical Cables and Others.

At estates cut by or bordering these artificial accidents should be observed the dominium area characteristics with its respective concessionaire.

e – Rivers and streams

The identification of streams will have to rigorously comply with the current Forestial Code (Law 4771/65 and its alterations), observing their reflexes in the estate dominion.

f – Vortex

It is the local where estate’s boundary changes its direction or where there is an intersection in this line with any other boundary line of nearby estates.

They can be represented in three different ways:

I) Landmark (occupied and materialized)

II) Point (occupied, but not materialized)

III) Virtual Vortex (not occupied nor materialized)


Picture 1 – Vortices representation scheme


9 - Conclusion:

Many years of soil and forests’ degradation is considered one of the most serious Brazilian environmental problems. Deforestations and burning down are responsible for about 60% to 70% of CO2 emissions in Brazil. The slow implementation of S.I.G technology and the lack of MTF have been making difficult to Brazil regarding incentives to sustainable use of the soil. The scarceness of financial resources, unqualified professionals and lack of political willingness has been slowing down actions in this sense.

The CDM and the sequestrated carbon market, come to meet the need to revert this situation, the financial support from these projects could speed up the georeferencing of degraded areas up to 1990. A Geographic Information System model to identify and delimit areas with potential to generate carbon credits would help to determine priorities regarding reforestation. But we have to take care when approving merely mercantilist projects, because they may harm even more the environment.

As Brazil’s energy source accounts for 90% of hydroelectric power stations, with low emission of GHE, the reductions in emission in this sector will be smaller, and for being expensive in relation to forestial arrest they may attract few investments.

Anyway, this is an international market, the cheapest options in terms of carbon credits generated by each sector in each country will have priorities. In this sense, silviculture and industrial co-generation are more attractive nowadays, as the secondary impacts from co-generation are mostly positive and silviculture may generate negative impacts.

To take advantage of this moment and generate a great number of forestial credits possible from a sustainable management of Brazilian forests is our challenge.

In order to Brazil decrease its emissions, forest protection against burn down and deforestation is the solution, and because of it, we expect in the second phase of Kyoto Protocol to have a bigger Brazilian participation in the international negotiations.





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