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FORESTS BRANCH OFF...

into carbon sequestration and substitution



 

FAO task force on the role of forestry in carbon sequestration

Mr Wulf Killmann, Director of the Forest Products Division, has taken over as Chairman of the FAO Task Force on the Role of Forestry in Carbon Sequestration. Mr Miguel Trossero will continue as Technical Secretary. Mr Killmann has kindly accepted our invitation to give us his views.

Carbon sequestration and substitution contribute considerably towards the mitigation of global warming and, thus, climate change. Forestry and forest activities play important roles in the process of carbon sequestration and substitution. There are a number of forestry practices helping to slow the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the Kyoto Protocol, with its three flexible mechanisms proposed in article 12, offers possibilities of funding them.

Although many of the details required to put the flexible mechanisms into practice (such as clear definitions, guidelines and carbon accounting schemes) are still to be defined and the Kyoto Protocol has not yet been ratified by the signatory nations, investment in forestry projects in developing countries with the purpose of carbon sequestration and substitution has already started. In fact, some joint implementation projects, such as those funded through the Dutch foundation, Forest Absorbing CO2 Emissions (FACE), started in the early 1980s.

At present, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing a special report to clarify some of these details. Members of the Ad Hoc Group on Climate in Relation to Agriculture and Food Security and the Task Force on the Role of Forestry in Carbon Sequestration were involved in the technical review of this report.

With its worldwide mandate, FAO can assist its member countries in making use of the opportunities opening up under the Clean Development Mechanism defined in the Kyoto Protocol. The function of the Task Force on the Role of Forestry in Carbon Sequestration will be to advise the respective forestry sector of the member country. In particular, it will:

We are looking forward to cooperating actively with all of you.

[See also Forest Energy Forum No. 3 for more information on this Task Force.]

 

Advisory committee on paper and wood products (ACPWP)

During the recent meeting of the Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products (ACPWP) in Brazil

(27-28 April 1999), the committee recommended that FAO should give more attention and resource allocation to activities on carbon sequestration and substitution, carbon accounting and a general follow-up of forestry issues in connection with the Kyoto Protocol. This will be followed up in the next session of the committee which is scheduled to take place in May 2000 in New Zealand.

As a consequence, FAO's Forest Products Division will employ a short-term expert to advise on the areas within this context where the FAO Forestry Department might contribute, taking into consideration the involvement of others within and outside FAO.

For more information, please contact: Mr Jacques Lahaussois, Technical Secretary, Advisory Committee on Paper and Wood Products, Forest Products Division, Forestry Department FAO.



Boreal forests and forestry in the global carbon budget

The role of forests and forestry in the global carbon budget has become an important research issue. It is also of increasing international policy interest, as indicated by the inclusion of some forestry practices in the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, there remains a diversity of scientific opinion regarding sinks and sources of greenhouse gases associated with forests and forestry practices, particularly in northern latitudes.

Forests in the boreal zone are an important part of the cultural and economic wealth of northern countries. Among the world's few remaining natural forests, boreal forests are known to be very large stores of carbon and play an important role in the annual exchange of greenhouse gases with the atmosphere. There is global concern about the increasing effect of greenhouse gases on our climate and continuing scientific debate about the role of circumpolar boreal forests as a sink or source of atmospheric CO2, one of the prime greenhouse gases. A number of important scientific and forest management issues are attached to questions of climate change and the role of natural disturbances in the global carbon budget. How can these forests be sustainably managed as renewable sources of fibre and wood products while preserving their carbon storage abilities? Recalling the 1995 finding of the IPCC that boreal forests were perhaps the most vulnerable of the earth's forests, what changes can be expected in the forest's carbon balance associated with climate change itself?

The Canadian Forest Service and the International Boreal Forest Research Association are organizing an international science conference on The Role of Boreal Forests and Forestry in the Global Carbon Budget, in Edmonton, Canada in May 2000. Discussions will focus on the current scientific understanding of forest carbon dynamics in the circumpolar boreal region, as well as the unique ecological, economic and social conditions that influence management decisions regarding carbon sequestration, climate change impacts and adaptation to climate change in the boreal region. It is intended to bring a circumpolar perspective to research initiatives as well as fostering cooperation and an exchange of ideas among countries in the circumpolar boreal forest.

For more information, please contact: Carbon Conference Coordinator, 5320-122 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T6H 3S, Canada.
Fax: +1 780 453 7356;
e-mail: carbon@nofc.forestry.ca
www.nofc.forestry.ca/carbon

 

Biomass energy

Biomass currently supplies about a third of the energy in developing countries. Precise levels vary from about 90 percent in countries such as Nepal, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, to 45 percent in India and 28 percent in China and Brazil. Levels are lower in industrial countries: 14 percent in Austria, for example, 20 percent in Finland and18 percent in Sweden.
On a global basis, biomass contributes about 14 percent of the world's energy (55 EJ or 25 million barrels of oil equivalent, offsetting 1.1 PgC of net CO2 emissions annually).
(Source: Bioenergy, prepared by David Hall and Frank Rosillo-Calle of King's College London.)

[Editor's note: This is an important issue which shows how forest energy contributes to climate change mitigation.]

 

Canada's pulp and paper industry and its role in reducing CO2 emissions

The pulp and paper industry is Canada's largest consumer of industrial energy, but it also leads the country in reducing emissions from the use of fossil fuels. Canada made an international commitment to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (the most significant greenhouse gas) by 6 percent below 1990 levels. The pulp and paper industry is one of the few industries in the country to have achieved that target; it has cut CO2 emissions by 19 percent since 1990, despite a 21 percent increase in production.

The industry has achieved this reduction through a combination of factors:

(Source: Harvest and Harmony, Canadian Pulp and Paper Association; originally published June 1995, updated 1999.)

 

International protocol for measuring and reporting business greenhouse gases

An international group of business, governmental and environmental organizations has formed a partnership to develop an international protocol for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions from business activities. The protocol will help businesses simplify reporting and will improve the credibility, comparability and usefulness of information. Standardized measurement and reporting is an important first step towards reducing emissions and responding to global climate change.

The collaboration was announced at a meeting which was recently convened jointly by the World Resources Institute (WRI) based in Washington, DC, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The group's initiative will build on the significant progress that has already been made by other climate-related measurement efforts. It breaks new ground in the following ways:

The group will be collaborative, will not simply focus on one country, type of industry or company and will involve an open multistakeholder process. The results will be linked with broader corporate sustainability reporting practices, such as the Global Reporting Initiative.

The group aims to reach agreement on unresolved reporting issues, such as how a reporting entity is defined, which reporting formats, units and conversion factors to use, how to define measurement and reporting boundaries, and how to relate to national reporting and emissions inventory schemes.

WRI and WBCSD

The World Resources Institute is a Washington, DC-based centre for policy research and technical assistance on global environmental and development issues.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a coalition of 120 international companies united by a shared commitment to the environment and to the principles of economic growth and sustainable development. Its members are drawn from 30 countries and more than 20 major industrial sectors.

The group's work will provide a foundation for businesses and others to identify greenhouse gas reduction opportunities, set reduction goals, initiate self-assessment or independent auditing, assess progress and provide data that enable flexible, market-oriented climate policies.

"A credible and usable standard for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions will help advance climate actions globally," said WRI's president Jonathan Lash and WBCSD's president Björn Stigson in a joint statement. "The ultimate success of the initiative is developing a robust and practical tool that is widely used by companies and others to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions. It is dependent on securing input, synergy and support from a range of key international actors." To this end, the group welcomes additional partners to join the effort. (Source: World Resources Institute News Release, Washington, DC, 11 June 1999.)

 

La contribución forestal para la mitigación del cambio climático

La FAO, en colaboración con la Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD) y el auspicio de la Secretaría de Estado en Honduras, organizó una reunión Regional sobre la contribución del sector forestal a la mitigación del cambio climático. Dicha reunión se llevó a cabo en Tegucigalpa del 4 al 6 de octubre de 1999.

El evento tuvo como principal objetivo discutir los detalles de un proyecto centroamericano que permita establecer estrategias nacionales y regionales para mitigar el cambio climático mediante el manejo de los recursos forestales y sus actividades vinculadas, como así también reforzar las capacidades nacionales para la implementación de dichas estrategias. En vista de ello y considerando la importancia que tienen los recursos forestales para el desarrollo de los países de la región fueron invitados a los Sres. Ministros de la CCAD, los Directores Forestales nacionales, miembros de la oficina de Implementación Conjunta (IC), donantes, representantes del sector privado y demás autoridades pertinentes. Se contó además con la participación y contribución de expertos internacionales.

 

Role of wood-based products in absorbing atmospheric carbon

The contribution of wood-based products in absorbing atmospheric carbon will be estimated as part of the ongoing EU-funded project, Long-term regional effects of climate change on European forests: impact assessment and consequences for carbon budgets (LTEEF-II). Based on past wood use, carbon stocks in wood products for 1990 will be estimated. In addition to the estimation of the initial carbon stock in wood products, scenarios of the future development of the carbon stock in wood products will be made. This is based on future growth of forest resources - both under current climatic conditions and under changing climatic conditions - as well as future harvesting levels.

Mr Thies Eggers (Faculty of Forest Science and Forest Ecology, Georg-August University, Göttingen, Germany) has been working on the data collection and data analysis for those European countries that are included in the LTEEF-II project. The main data source on removals and commodities is the FAOSTAT forestry products database. Additional data are supplied by EUROSTAT forestry statistics and commodity producer information. (Source: EFI News, June 1999.)

For more information, please visit: www.ibn.dlo.nl/LTEEF-II/


 

Special report on land use, land use change and forestry

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to assess the scientific, technical, and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change. It bases its assessments mainly on published and peer-reviewed scientific technical literature.

The role of land use change and forestry and forestry activities for the mitigation of climate change is not clearly described in the Kyoto Protocol. For this reason, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) requested IPCC to examine the scientific, technical, economic and social implications of using carbon sequestration strategies in land use and forestry activities to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. IPCC has completed the first draft of a Special Report on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry. This report will be completed in May 2000.

For more information, please visit their Web site or contact: IPCC Working Group II TSU, Special Report on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Expert Review, 400 Virginia Avenue, SW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20024, USA.
Fax: +1 202 488 8678;
e-mail: srlucf@usgcrp.gov ;
www.usgcrp.gov/ipcc/html/SRLUCF.html

 

Unfccc launches new web site

The secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been on the Internet since 1995. Its Web site receives more than one million hits each month. This new "third generation" site updates and consolidates information from the previous sites and adds several new features and resources.

The site provides parties, representatives of observer organizations and others interested in the UNFCCC process with a one-stop source of news, data, information and documents.

The section on Resources includes the "Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data", which will be the first of a series of interactive databases to be made available. The data are presented in two forms: a series of summary tables provide an overall analysis for Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries; in addition, a database with search capabilities permits specialized searches of data by country, gas and time period. An introductory note explains how the data have been collected and presented. In addition to the above, users will still find the texts of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol in all available languages as well as the latest list of ratifications. Background information on the national communications process and a complete list of communications are also available electronically. A climate change information kit, developed by the UNEP Information Unit on Conventions, provides for "Frequently Asked Questions" about climate change.

For more information, please visit the Web site or contact: Mr Kevin Grose, Information Support Subprogramme, UNFCCC, POB 260 124, D-53153 Bonn, Germany.
Fax. +49 228 815 1999;
e-mail: kgrose@unfccc.de;
www.unfccc.de

 

Wood energy, climate and health

Impacts on health and the environment of emissions from wood stoves are increasingly being recognized in Asia and elsewhere. Smoke and other emissions add to indoor pollution as well as greenhouse gases. Evidence for both effects is fairly substantial. What we can agree upon is that reducing the emissions will mitigate the two adverse effects at the same time. However, different views exist on how best to improve the situation.

Some experts argue that wood stoves, even the improved ones, are not good enough from the health point of view, and we should get away from such fuels. Others argue that stoves can be improved still further to achieve better combustion, and thus wood would be as clean as any other household fuel. As yet no one has made reliable cost estimates on a life cycle basis in order to compare the options.

For the short term, such expert arguments may seem academic. The facts are that for many people in Asia wood is the only available or accessible energy source, and this situation will not change in the foreseeable future. However, in view of recent research in China and India, the issue is not academic at all. It has already been convincingly analysed and documented that for the sake of improving public health alone, the costs of not reducing emissions are higher than the costs of taking adequate measures. An extra bonus from the health-oriented measures arises for the benefit of the global environment.

A similar argument can be also built on the climate aspect. Saving greenhouse gas emissions by introducing improved household stoves can be achieved at a cost of less than US$4/tonne of CO2 avoided (which is quite attractive under current conditions). Health improvement would then be the additional bonus. Whether health or climate benefits are the prime driving forces, an important observation can be made: socially and environmentally, emission characteristics of household stoves are far more impacting than any other characteristic. Hence, the main criteria for stove design must shift from thermal efficiency to combustion efficiency.

RWEDP convened an Expert Consultation on this subject, in Phuket, Thailand, from 7 to 9 October 1999. Experts came from member countries, the United States, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as from international agencies. A report with the conclusions and recommendations will be available in due course. (Contributed by: W.S. Hulscher, RWEDP, Bangkok, Thailand.)

For more information, please contact: Mr Wim Hulscher, Chief Technical Adviser, RWEDP-GCP/RAS/154/NET, c/o RAP, Maliwan Mansion, Phra Atit Road, Bangkok 10200, Thailand.
Fax: +66 2 280 0760;
e-mail: rwedp@fao.org;
www.rwedp.org

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