CMPC addresses challenges in restoring areas affected by rural fires

The company was invited by Acción Empresas to present on nature-based solutions under the framework of the NAP Expo 2023, an international congress promoting the advancement of the National Climate Change Adaptation Plans. This year’s event was held in Santiago, Chile.

With an audience of representatives from 194 countries, CMPC Sustainability Manager Nicolás Gordon explained how the company’s teams have returned to south-central Chile to help restore the areas devastated by the fires that hit the country last February. He presented at the NAP Expo 2023, a congress organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that seeks to promote the exchange of experiences and foster partnerships among stakeholders to advance National Climate Change Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

Specifically, Gordon presented at the panel discussion “Application of Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Adaptation” organized by Acción Empresas, an organization invited to participate in the event by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment, together with four representatives of other companies, NGOs and Think Tanks. During the discussion Gordon gave an account of how the company is using nature-based solutions (NBS) for post-wildfire territorial planning. “In Chile we know that this is our new reality and, therefore, we can’t keep thinking about how we’re going to recover from this by doing everything exactly as we have done. This doesn’t just mean us as a company, but as users of a territory that is shared with other industries and residents,” he said.

In his presentation, Gordon explained that CMPC has identified four central elements that trigger a response in circumstances like the wildfires. First of all, one of the main issues is access to water. “Without water, people, companies and other institutions operating in these territories would be in serious trouble,” he said. Secondly, there is the infrastructural impact, be it public or private. “This is where the government generally acts quite quickly and effectively,” he added. The third element has to do with economic reactivation and the impact on people’s quality of life and income. He closed by discussing this environmental crisis that is entirely stripping the land in some areas.

He added that once the hardest days of the catastrophe had gone by, the company wondered how to return to the territories. This led them to design a three-stage watershed restoration plan – Mitigation, Reforestation and Restoration, and Monitoring and Improvement – with two priority areas determined in conjunction with the communities. These are Areas of High Biological Conservation Value and Native Forest (determined by FSC forest certification) and High Conservation Value Areas for services, such as watersheds.

Gordon said this plan offers a complementary avenue not only to what can be done in terms of adaptation, but also from a post-disaster recovery perspective. “It’s taking a very negative experience, like the one we had with the fires, and transforming it into something positive, thinking that somehow we can redraw the landscape with different conditions than were initially present. If we spend our lives trying to recover from negative sustainability impacts, we will never move forward. But if we design responses to achieve better conditions than we had before, we can make progress. This is the logic that is guiding our work in terms of recovery after the fires,” he explained.

Lastly, the company will work on reforestation, with the priority of doubling the area allocated to protection zones, firebreaks, protection rings, biological corridors and spaces with agro-social uses. It will also work to help conserve the Pitao tree [Pitavia punctata], an evergreen endemic to Chile and one of the species most affected by the fires that are important to the communities. The CMPC Sustainability Manager explained that one component has to do with how the solutions are implemented in nature. “In our case it is through locally contracted service companies. This enables the possibility of having the beneficiaries of these solutions working on their implementation, the same people who truly love the places where these projects will be executed,” he added.
A common point among the speakers was the importance of collaborative work for making substantial progress in these matters. They all mentioned that synergies and building alliances between public, private and independent organizations are of utmost urgency to address climate change using nature-based solutions.

Others presenters alongside Gordon included Rafael Ascanio, a Biodiversity and Nature-Based Solutions Specialist at Anglo American; Felipe Sánchez, Aguas Andinas Deputy Sustainability Manager; and Maryann Ramírez, the Director of Strategy and Conservation Models at the Nature Conservancy NGO in Chile. The panel discussion was moderated by the Acción Empresas CEO Marcela Bravo, and Mauricio Luna from the International Institute for Sustainable Development also joined the conversation.

This is the eighth version of NAP Expo and will be held in Santiago until March 30.