Working Group III: Mitigation

Other reports in this collection

5.4.6 Forestry

In addition to the several generic barriers that are discussed in Section 5.3, the forestry sector faces land use regulation and other macroeconomic policies that usually favour conversion to other land uses such as agriculture, cattle ranching, and urban industry. Insecure land tenure regimes, and tenure rights and subsidies favouring agriculture or livestock are among the most important barriers for ensuring sustainable management of forests as well as sustainability of carbon (C) abatement.

The Special Report on Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry (IPCC, 2000a) notes significant opportunities for forestry and other land-use change activities to sequester carbon. Afforestation and reforestation activities could capture between 197 to 584MtC/yr in all countries under the IPCC “definitional” scenario between 2008 to 2012. The estimated deforestation, however, would negate this sequestration potential. Halting deforestation offers additional opportunity to reduce emissions. Forest management and agroforestry options offer a potential to capture another 700MtC/yr by 2010. Capturing these opportunities, however, entails significant hurdles of the types noted below.

Lack of Technical Capability
In many developing countries, the national and state forest departments play a predominant role in all aspects of forest protection, regeneration, and management. Currently lack of funding and technical capabilities in most tropical countries limit generation of information required for planning and implementation of forestry mitigation projects. Apart from a few exceptions, developing countries do not have adequate capacity to participate in international research projects and to adapt and transfer results of the research to the local level. Research on forests has not only suffered from a lack of resources; it has not been sufficiently interdisciplinary to provide an integrated view of forestry (FAO, 1997). However, the majority of the forestry research institutions do not function as R&D laboratories as they do in industry, and the main focus is on research and not technology development and dissemination. Unlike in the energy or transportation sectors, the technologies or even the management systems are going to be forest type or country specific.

Lack of Capacity for Monitoring Carbon Stocks
Forestry-sector GHG mitigation activities and joint implementation projects generally face a wide range of technical issues that challenge their credibility. The twin objectives of using forestry to mitigate climate change and managing forests sustainably do pose a challenge in monitoring and verifying benefits from carbon offset projects in the sector (Andrasko, 1997). While methods generally exist to monitor carbon stocks in vegetation, soils and products, operational systems that could be readily implemented for this purpose are lacking in all countries (IPCC, 2000a). Monitoring and verification are key elements in gaining the credibility needed to capture the potential benefits of forestry sector response options, particularly in reducing deforestation (Fearnside, 1997). While this is a generic barrier to deforestation reduction initiatives, it also represents an opportunity for transferring the technologies needed to monitor land-use change and carbon stocks and flows. Among the mitigation options, there is a higher degree of certainty on reforestation and/or afforestation, less on forest management, and even less on forest conservation.

Under the GEF-UNDP sponsored Asian Least-Cost Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategy (ALGAS), the US Country Studies Program (Sathaye et al., 1997a), and other forestry sector capacity building and analytical activities have identified mitigation options and technologies. Furthermore, the policies to promote technology transfer have been identified (e.g., regulations, financial incentives) and sometimes implemented (e.g., Mexico, Bolivia). Under the UNFCCC, each party is required to communicate a national inventory of GHG emissions by sources and sinks. A large portion of the parties has completed this task and is trying to understand forestry sector emissions and removals by sinks, which has improved dramatically. Many parties are taking steps to manage forest systems as C reservoirs (Kokorin, 1997; Sathaye et al., 1997a).

As a result of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, many developing and transitional countries are developing National Climate Change Action Plans (NCCAPs) which incorporate forestry-sector mitigation and adaptation options (Benioff et al., 1997). ‘‘No regrets’’ adaptation and mitigation options have been identified that are consistent with national sustainable development goals. Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Nigeria, and Venezuela all have developed very specific forestry sector climate action plans.

The Russian Federation has a progressive forestry sector climate change action plan (Kokorin, 1997), although its implementation is uncertain under the current economic conditions. Based on current economic and climate change scenarios several mitigation and adaptation scenarios have emerged: (1) creating economic mechanisms to increase forestry sector effectiveness and efficiency in logged (removal) areas, (2) providing assistance for forestation in the Europe-Ural region, (3) promoting fire management and protection for central and northeastern Siberia, and (4) limiting clear-cut logging in southern Siberia. These steps are significant since Russia contains approximately 22% of the world’s coniferous forests.

Forestry mitigation projects are likely to be largely funded by Annex I countries and implemented in non-Annex I countries and EITs. Technology, including management systems, is an integral part of all projects funded by bilateral or multilateral or commercial agencies. Thus, promotion of mitigation projects also automatically promotes the flow of technology from donor agencies or countries to host countries or agencies. In fact, technology transfer is already happening. Forestry sector options are of relatively low cost compared to those in the energy sector (Sathaye and Ravindranath, 1998). But there are some problems and uncertainties regarding the incremental C abated: its sustainability, measurement, verification, and certification. All forestry sector GHG mitigation projects must ensure that they meet accepted standards for sustainable forest management (Sathaye et al., 1997b). Independent verification of C abatement would help to increase the credibility and funding of forestry-sector mitigation projects.

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage