carbon sequestration and substitution

Climate change and forestry listserv

FAO’s Forest Products Division has started an electronic mailing list on climate change and forestry to share current information and experiences in this area of growing importance among interested parties. It will be open to anyone who is interested. However, it is essential for the success of this initiative to have a wide and active participation by experts and practitioners in both fields — forestry and climate change.

We welcome the following type of information relevant to climate change and forestry:

• publications, documents and speeches;
• Web sites;
• announcements of events and job opportunities;
• developments of climate change negotiations; and
• opinions, comments and inquiries.

Please send whatever you feel is pertinent and relevant to this topic to:


To join the list, please send an e-mail to: mailserv@mailserv.fao.org, and write SUBSCRIBE CLIM-FO-L in the body of the message, leaving the subject blank.

Take a look at FAO’s Forestry and Climate Change Web site (www.fao.org/forestry/climate) for:

• back issues of CLIM-FO-L; and
• on-line subscription.

For more information, please contact:
Ms Suzuko Tanaka, Associate Professional Officer, Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.
Fax: +39 0657055618;
e-mail: suzuko.tanaka@fao.org

Clim-fo-l highlights

We will be making a regular feature of including some of the most salient points on bioenergy aspects of climate change from the CLIM-FO-L.

Climate change news

Climate change talks to resume in Bonn in July

Mr Jan Pronk, Chairman of the climate change talks that were suspended last November in The Hague, has announced that the negotiations will resume in Bonn, Germany from 16 to
27 July 2001. The rules for counting emissions reductions from carbon "sinks" such as forests and farmland will be among the key issues that must be resolved at the resumed talks.


COP6 President Pronk’s new proposal
The proposal can be found on: www.unfccc.int/sessions/cop6_2/unfccc_np.html

The United States’ announcement that they will not implement the Kyoto Protocol caused waves of reactions
"U.S. pulls out of Kyoto Protocol"

"U.S. aims to pull out of warming treaty"

"Bush says economy overrides environmental issues"

IPCC released Third Assessment Report

Working Group I: "Climate Change 2001: the scientific basis"

Working Group II: "Climate Change 2001: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability"

Working Group III: "Climate Change 2001: mitigation"

A summary for policy-makers can be downloaded from: www.ipcc.ch/


Evaluating carbon offsets from forestry

and energy projects: How do they compare?, by Kenneth M. Chomitz, Development Research Group, World Bank

(CLIM-FO No. 1/2001)

"Do forestry projects, as a class, face more difficulties than energy projects in producing GHG emissions reductions that are real, measurable, additional and consistent with sustainable development?" The author considers the main criteria for qualifying a project that produces emissions reductions: baseline and additionality determination, leakage assessment, measurement of actual emissions or sequestration and duration or permanence. It is difficult to find generic distinctions between land-use change and forestry (LUCF) and energy projects for all the criteria except permanence. More important distinctions among projects have to do with such things as: the level and distribution of direct financial benefits that result from the project; the degree to which the project is integrated with a broader physical and economic system; the internal homogeneity and geographic dispersion of the project components; and the local replicability of project technologies. It is argued that permanence is an issue specific to LUCF projects and several potential approaches to ensure permanence or adjust credits for duration are analysed, i.e. the ten-year approach, the combination approach, a technology-acceleration approach and an insurance approach.

The report can be downloaded from: http://econ.worldbank.org/view.php?type=5&id= 1111

Climate change and the forestry sector: possible legislative responses for national and subnational governments,
FAO Legal Papers Online No. 14,
by Kenneth L. Rosenbaum, March 2001 (CLIM-FO No. 6/2001)

This paper examines the developing law of climate change and discusses what issues legislative bodies may have to consider regarding climate change mitigation and forests. Forests would appear to have a major role to play in the international response to climate change. However, the many parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) might reach different conclusions regarding the role of forests and appropriate legislation to foster that role.

• First, obligations of parties will differ, particularly between developed nations (Annex I parties) and other nations.

• Second, the role of forestry projects to counterbalance existing emissions is controversial. Some fear overreliance on such projects could hamper industrial development.

• Third, the rules for multiparty mitigation projects and trading of emission reduction obligations are still unsettled.

• Fourth, the legal issues raised by forest mitigation will overlap with legal issues raised by larger issues of mitigation and compliance.

• Fifth, the approaches taken will vary depending on local institutions, laws and needs.

• Sixth, the role of national legislation in compliance (versus international standards set by the parties) is still unclear.

To date, national legislative activity on the issue of forests and climate change has been slight. Countries have relied more on the creative use of existing legislation than on the creation of new legislation.

There are a few exceptions to this observation. Costa Rica has created a Certified Tradable Offset to attract developed nations seeking to sponsor mitigation projects. The first project funded under this mechanism has involved forests. The state of New South Wales in Australia has changed its property laws to recognize a separate legal interest in the carbon sequestration potential of forest land. The Dominican Republic has adopted a law that will allow it to create incentives for managing forests for environmental services such as carbon sequestration.

The possible issues that could arise in new legislation are broad. A nation interested in developing market-based systems to promote carbon sequestration in forests may have to address issues such as these:

• Who owns the carbon sequestration potential and can that ownership be transferred?

• How is the size of the potential to be determined?

• How can the government promote orderly sales or other transfers of potential ownership?

• How will the law allocate the risk of failure of carbon sequestration projects?

• Will the law assess liability for damaging a forest’s carbon sequestration potential?

If a nation wishes to take a regulatory approach, at least three avenues are open to it. It can regulate forest use and management directly. For example, it could limit harvests or require prompt reforestation of harvested or degraded areas. It can regulate the manufacture and use of forest products, aiming at reducing waste and decay. Or it could regulate greenhouse gas producers in ways that encourage them to invest in greenhouse gas sinks.

Nations could also promote the use of forests as sinks through subsidies. These may be payments, goods or services given to forest landowners to promote management for sequestration. The subsidies could also be in the form of government acquisition and management of lands, or of partial interests in lands. Governments could also spend money on enforcement of general forest protection laws.

Finally, governments could try to promote forest carbon sequestration using informational mechanisms. These range from informing landowners about management options and advantages, to informing manufacturers and consumers of forest products on ways to reduce waste, to certifying the success of private sequestration efforts.

Until the role of forests in meeting sequestration goals becomes clearer, the role of legislation in this area will also be unclear. However, deadlines under the Kyoto Protocol are tight, and parties should be thinking now about how or whether to encourage the use of forests as carbon sinks.

The paper can be downloaded from: www.fao.org/Legal/pub-e.htm , then click on FAO Legal Papers Online. Further information can be obtained from: Mr Ali Mekouar (Ali.Mekouar@fao.org ).

Forestry issues outstanding from COP6,
by Gareth Phillips, Edwin Aalders and Irma Lubrecht, (CLIM-FO No.7/2001)

In the notes and new proposals issued by Pronk following COP6, the Chairman refers to "special concerns" and "issues" which arise from the implementation of afforestation and reforestation projects under the CDM. Specifically, these are:

• Non-permanence (also accounting modalities in the "Note by the President").

• Social and environmental effects; Leakage; Additionality; Uncertainty; Scale (introduced in the "New proposals"); Definitions for Article 3.3 (removed from the "New proposals").

The Parties were asked to decide to establish a process under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) to develop rules and modalities to deal with these issues.

Considerable progress in addressing these issues has already been made, and the authors believe that this progress has a significant bearing on the debate surrounding the inclusion of afforestation and reforestation projects in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Part I of this paper summarizes the reasons why the "issues" have arisen and explains some of the solutions that could be used to address them. Part II provides details of project-related experiences gained through the validation and verification of a wide range of sinks-based projects.

Permanence is addressed though accounting regimes. The main decision required by COP is whether to relate credits to stock changes, as in Annex 1 inventories and JI projects, or to the real, long-term, measurable benefits that arise from carbon storage. If the first option is chosen, projects will be encouraged but it is likely that a small proportion of certified emission reductions (CERs) will not be real. If the second option is chosen, afforestation and reforestation projects will generate very small credit amounts in the early years but virtually all credits will be real. Social and environmental effects can be addressed through guidelines that require projects to identify and mitigate negative impacts. Individual host countries can determine exactly how far they expect projects to go in order to demonstrate that they contribute to sustainable development. Activity-based leakage can be identified and managed.

Market-based leakage is harder to quantify but can be approximated. Conservation/deforestation projects are generally prone to very high levels of market-based leakage and this is one reason why COP6 was right to rule conservation projects out of the CDM. Additionality must be assessed for individual projects but there is little difference between the problems faced in afforestation and reforestation projects and other types of CDM projects. Uncertainty can be managed through normal statistical procedures in the same way as variation around a mean would be handled in any other type of CDM project. Scale is a non-issue. Once an accounting framework has been defined, the issue of scale will be resolved because the number of credits and the time over which they are delivered may be defined. The low cost of some CERs derived from afforestation/reforestation projects is irrelevant. Many other types of CDM projects are profitable without CERs revenues. The eligibility criteria for CDM projects include tests of additionality and if projects fulfil these criteria, they should be considered eligible. The expected volume of credits arising from sinks projects in the first commitment period has been overinflated.

To obtain an electronic copy of the above documents, make a request to: Suzuko.Tanaka@fao.org; for more information, contact Gareth Phillips (Gphillips@sgsgroup.com ).


The Sixth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP6) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in The Hague, the Netherlands, in November 2000. FAO, participating as an observer, released a statement to participants in the plenary and displayed posters, publications and papers at an on-site exhibit stand.

After a week of meetings of the subsidiary bodies (SBI/SBSTA) and a week of ministerial level negotiations, the Parties were not able to reach agreement on several key issues, including the role of carbon sinks, to what extent reductions must be achieved with domestic actions, and enforcement.

Ministerial-level negotiations took place during the second week. On Thursday, 23 November, the President of COP6 (Minister Jan Pronk of the Netherlands) distributed a "note by the President", which proposed a draft (largely written as meeting conclusions) in order to focus discussions on four issues perceived as crucial: funding mechanisms and guidance to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF); mechanisms; land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and policies and measures.

The Parties were not able to reach agreement on the key issues listed above; it was therefore agreed that COP6 should be suspended and resumed possibly in May/June 2001. It has now been decided that the resumed COP6 will be held from 18 to 27 July 2001 in Bonn, Germany. (Contributed by: Suzuko Tanaka, Associate Professional Officer, Forest Products Division, Forestry Department, FAO.)

For more information, please see:

Carbon sequestration in frequently asked questions (continued)

How much carbon is stored by forests in Europe? 
The amount of carbon varies very much throughout Europe (like average growing stock), but on average the carbon stock in trees amounts to 53.2 Mg (= tonnes) C ha-1.

Is the contribution of forests in mitigating climate change really minimal?
The increase rate of the carbon stock in tree biomass in temperate and boreal forests has been estimated to be 900 million tonnes C per year, and the increase rate of the carbon stock in the atmosphere to be 3 200 million tonnes C per year. Without the increase in the biomass, the atmospheric CO2 concentration would be increasing about 30 percent faster, i.e. 3 200+900 = 4 100 million tonnes C per year.

How many trees must I plant to compensate for my car use?
 Suppose you drive for 40 years, 16 000 km/year. At a fuel efficiency of 11 km/litre of petrol, and a C emission of 0.86 kg C/litre, you must compensate 50 tonnes C, or 1.25 tonnes C/year. If we assume a net sequestration of 1.4 tonnes C/ha/year (average stem wood increment 3-4m3/ha/year), you would have to plant 0.9 ha of forest, assuming that carbon is stored at that rate and not released.

Is it wiser to invest in forestry projects in the tropics?
The cost efficiency of carbon sequestration in forests is a very complex matter. This is partly because in the very long term the net sequestration tends to be zero while the costs continue to exist. The costs vary from one project to another; for example, in first afforestation projects the cheapest sites are used. The methodology of studies concerning cost efficiency varies. Some take into account the opportunity costs of the site, others do not. However, it is clear that in the tropics the costs can be much lower than in Europe. In the tropics, the costs are estimated at one to three euros per tonne C, while in Europe the costs may rise to hundreds of euros per tonne C. On the other hand, the high costs in Europe are compensated by lower risks as well as the other benefits that are generated.

Should I stop managing my forest, or continue the regular management?
In a managed forest, tree biomass has not (usually) reached its maximum when the final cut is carried out. The harvested wood is used for products that may last from one to more than 100 years. The amount of carbon in trees, products and soils in managed forests may in some cases be smaller than the amount of carbon in trees, soils and dead wood in unmanaged forests, if undisturbed. However, this depends on the site and the type of management executed. However, wood products also have a carbon emission reduction effect, i.e. their production requires less energy than the production of aluminium, steel and concrete. Through the use of wood products (and thus managing the forest), a certain amount of carbon emission is prevented. In addition, at the end of their life span, wood products can be used to generate energy, thus again saving fossil fuels. (Source: EFI News, June 2000.)

For more information, please contact:
European Forest Institute (EFI), Torikatu 34, FIN-80100 Joensuu, Finland. Fax: +358 (0)13 124 393;
e-mail: efisec@efi.fi;

The original ten questions were posed in a recent issue of EFI News in an effort to clarify the situation surrounding carbon sequestration. The first two questions and answers were reproduced in the last issue of Forest Energy Forum; the remaining three questions and answers will be covered in the next issue.

Estimating ghg
emissions reduction
of domestic biomass

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) provides an opportunity for both industrialized and developing countries to collaborate on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such projects could include either the increased efficiency of biomass fuel use, or the replacement of fossil fuels/unsustainable biomass fuel by biomass fuel from sustainable sources.

An article in a recent issue of Wood Energy News discusses how the reduction of GHG emissions by such projects may be estimated and draws on project assessment work carried out by the authors, Stuart Parkinson and Katie Begg. (Source: Wood Energy News, November 2000.)



The following is a recent comment on the Infoterra electronic list. Your comments would be appreciated.

I found at Planetark (see Box) the direction in which the United Nations is thinking in order to rescue climate talks: use forests as sinks.

This raises at least three fundamental questions:

• Is it reasonable to expect that current nature can absorb all "old carbon" from fossil fuels whereas it was in equilibrium at pre-industrial levels?

• Is carbon counting in forests done in a reliable way? I have recently read about some evidence that carbon counting in United States’ forests is done in a most unreliable way.

• Is it possible to have carbon counted by satellites or at least airborne instruments?

This simply means that most carbon sequestration only serves to keep nature in equilibrium, and there is only room for sequestering carbon from fossil fuels at places where plants did not grow before the industrial revolution. All other places can only be used to repair the damage done to climate change by land-use change alone.

Therefore it can be regarded as very unwise to think that current remnants of once lush rainforests and other types of vegetation are able to absorb an overdose of carbon from fossil fuels as the destruction of rainforests itself has been a big contribution to current CO2 levels. (Source: Leonard Kater in INFOTERRA@CEDAR.AT)


A Swedish Government official gave the first clues as to the contents of a new United Nations environmental report intended to rescue world climate talks. The UN paper outlines how countries could meet targets to reduce greenhouse gases, such as CO2, by counting their forests as "sinks" which absorb the CO2 emissions produced by human activity. "The paper spells out that sinks could be used to meet targets to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, by how much, and says what type of projects would be allowed," the official said. The head of the United Nations panel for climate change, Dutch Minister for the Environment, Jan Pronk, told Reuters in an interview that he hoped the paper, a policy compromise, could save the Kyoto treaty to cut greenhouse gases despite the United States’ objections. United Nations-led climate talks to cut greenhouse gases broke down in November last year because of a dispute as to how much importance should be placed on the role of sinks. The United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada argued for them to be given greater weight in calculating countries’ quotas of emissions than the European Union would accept. The UN proposals would allow industrialized countries with reduction targets to count their encouragement of sinks in developing countries as a contribution towards meeting their own emissions targets, the official said. The United States said last month that it would abandon the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that it would do too much economic harm to the United States to cut CO2 unless forest sinks were counted in the calculations. (Source: Reuters News Service, 11 April 2001; www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=10474)


Developing synergies between carbon sinks and sustainable development through forest certification

Brussels, Belgium

5 and 6 April 2001

The workshop was initiated by the Directorate-General Environment of the European Commission and organized by a consortium of three European institutes: Foundation Joint Implementation Network (the Netherlands), FORM Ecology Consultants (the Netherlands) and Indufor (Finland). The workshop was attended by 54 experts who exchanged views on the state of the art in carbon sinks certification and forest management certification and on the possibilities for synergies between both fields.

On the basis of the 14 presentations and subsequent discussions at the meeting, a Moderator’s Summary was drafted, providing an overview of some of the main points covered in the seminar, and attempting to provide an indication of the views expressed on the main issues addressed. (Contributed by: Wytze van der Gaast, Foundation Joint Implementation Network.)

For more information, please contact:
Foundation Joint Implementation Network (JIN), Meerkoetlaan 30-A, 9765 TD Paterswolde, the Netherlands.
Tel./fax: +31 50 3096815;


International symposium on carbon sequestration measurement and monitoring in forest ecosystems

Valdivia, Chile

19-20 October 2001

This international event is especially intended for forest researchers, scientists, project drivers, professionals involved in environmental policy development and forest professionals interested in the topics related to measurement and monitoring of carbon sequestration in Latin-American forest ecosystems and agriculture-forest ecosystems.

The official language will be Spanish.

For more information, please contact:
Sigrid Calderon, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla de Correos 567, Valdivia, Chile.
Fax: +56 63 221231;
e-mail: carbono@uach.cl or proforma@uach.cl;