into carbon sequestration and substitution


FAO's view
FAO is concerned about the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture.
Agriculture is prominent in the ongoing climate-related negotiations, which entail a number of obligations for member countries, as well as opportunities. It is the view of the Organization that it should participate in the international discussions in order to:

· understand better the implications for the farming community in the broadest sense;

· ensure that farmers, herders and forest users are listened to and that they receive fair treatment;

· assist governments in complying with their obligations; and

· lobby for the potential of agriculture and forestry, not only to reduce their own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but also to absorb GHG from other sources.

Agriculture constitutes a major source of greenhouse gases: about 25 percent of the radiative forcing (RF) owing to carbon dioxide (mainly from land-use change, including deforestation), 70 percent of the RF owing both to methane (ruminant digestion and rice paddies) and nitrous oxides from fertilizer use. While most of the carbon dioxide stems from fossil fuel use, it is clear that agriculture has the potential to reduce emissions by promoting improved land-use systems, reforestation, modern bioenergy as substitutes for fossil fuels, conservation agriculture, processing of animal waste and improved feeds, more efficient crop management, and so on.

It is likely that many of the measures to reduce emissions (mitigation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] jargon) and to favour carbon storage (sequestration in soil and biomass) will qualify for one of the mechanisms to reduce atmospheric carbon provided for in the international climate agreements.

The agricultural community and governments must develop strategies to adapt to the changed climatic conditions. Interestingly, many mitigation and adaptation measures do complement each other; for instance, increased carbon storage achieved through conservation agriculture also improves the soil water storage capacity and resilience to rainfall variability, thereby constituting a so-called win-win situation.

There are many win-win situations associated with the improved practices that FAO favours and disseminates throughout its member countries.

For more information, please contact: Mr René Gommes, Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN), Sustainable Development Department, FAO.

FAO's role
FAO assisted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the secretariat of UNFCCC with advice regarding terminology and consistency of definitions and methodologies and in the review of the Special Report to be submitted in May 2000, and is participating as an observer in the various Conference of Parties (CoP) meetings.

FAO is disseminating information to member countries on the prospects for the forestry sector under the Kyoto Protocol. Two regional publications have been prepared: Carbon dioxide offset investment in the Asia-Pacific forestry sector: opportunities and constraints, published in May 1998; and El Protocolo de Kyoto y el Mecanismo para un Desarrollo Limpio, published in April 1999. A third publication for Africa is in preparation. 

To date, about 4 million ha of forests worldwide are managed with GHG mitigation funding. (Source: FAO.)

Projects are being formulated to support countries interested in developing activities under the Kyoto Protocol, such as the Estrategia Forestal para América Central for the Central American subregion.

FAO has been conducting national and regional workshops on the subject, e.g. in Honduras in October 1999.

Based on its international mandate, FAO will position itself as a partner contributing:

· a forum to discuss land-use changes and forestry activities, as well as other pending issues;

· baseline data at the national, regional, ecosystem and global levels (e.g. through Forest Resources Assessment [FRA], State of the World's Forests [SOFO], Global Fibre Supply Model [GFSM], Unified Wood Energy Terminology [UWET], Wood Energy Information System [WEIS]);

· studies in relation to specific issues;

· methodology development and dissemination/training;

· technical expertise, where and when required; and

· information and advice to member countries.

FAO is planning to host an expert meeting in cooperation with other donors in 2000. (Source: Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission Secretariat Note Forestry and the Kyoto Protocol: key issues.)

Forestry Department activities for climate change mitigation

FAO Forestry Department activities will be developed within the framework of three main lines of action:

  • sequestration of fossil fuel carbon emissions through:

    - reduction of deforestation (including forest fire management); and

    - increasing reforestation and afforestation activities (tree planting, restoration of severely degraded land, promotion of agroforestry, etc.);

  • displacement of fossil fuel carbon emission through:

    - the use of biofuel; and

    - the substitution of fossil fuel-intensive materials (such as steel, bricks, plastics, aluminium) by forest products;

  • more energy-efficient forest industries activities and practices, such as the use of low-impact forest harvesting techniques.

    From a sectoral point of view, FAO Forestry Department activities will be focused on:

    1. Institutional capacity-building:

    · strengthening relevant and key forestry academic and research institutions and non-governmental organizations.

    2. Capacity-building under the clean development mechanism:

    · project identification, formulation and design in the forestry field;

    · development of criteria, e.g. for sustainable forestry development indicators;

    · development of baselines in the forestry field;

    · clean development mechanism demonstration projects in the forestry sector to enhance capacity-building (learning by doing), including assessment of costs and risks (long- and short-term); and

    · data acquisition and dissemination regarding forest resources, forest products and biofuel.

    3. Human resource development:

    · establishment of international technical cooperative networks for the exchange of information and experience; and

    · preparation of specialized studies and policy analysis on issues such as climate change detection and climate variability, impact assessment, vulnerability and adaptation studies.

    4. National communications:

    · data collection, analysis, presentation and dissemination on forestry aspects and issues.

    5. Improved decision-making:

    · awareness and knowledge: reporting on the role of forestry in mitigation of climate change and on developments related to the UNFCCC in the biennial publication of FAO Forestry Department, State of the World's Forests;

    · technical and policy; and

    · integrating climate change policies into national forestry development strategies and plans through the analysis of the future impact on forest management of efforts to mitigate climate change in the Forestry Department's regional and global forestry outlook studies (e.g. the Forestry Outlook Study for Africa). The forestry outlook studies help provide a broad context within which to view the potentials for mitigation efforts in the land-use change and forestry sector.

    (Source: FAO's Wood Energy Programme.)


    Las 48 millones de hectáreas de bosques que tiene Bolivia, están en la mira de los países desarrollados. Las exigencias internacionales para mitigar la contaminación ambiental, han estimulado la búsqueda de formas para disminuir la emisión de CO2. En este sentido, y considerando que la madera de los árboles, las raíces y el suelo capturan el CO2, evitando que vaya a la atmósfera, Bolivia podría recibir más de 150 millones de dólares al año si es que decide conservar sus áreas verdes.

    Según S. Jáuregui, asesor del Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, los países industrializados que conforman el Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre Cambios Climáticos (PICC), ofrecieron pagar al Gobierno boliviano entre 8 y 25 dólares por tonelada de CO2 que se almacene en las zonas forestales. «Básicamente, el contrato tendría que darse entre un país desarrollado, que es un gran emisor de gases, y un país que tenga zonas cultivadas con especies vegetales», añadió. Por su parte, Ph. Fearnside, miembro del Instituto de Protección de la Amazonia, dijo que le propuesta será presentada al Gobierno boliviano en los próximos meses.

    Sin embargo, L. Castello, asesor del Plan de Acción Forestal para Bolivia, dijo que aún resta por discutir en el seno del las Naciones Unidas sobre si los bosques pueden ser tomados en cuenta como uno de los mecanismos para capturar CO2. Señaló que, en caso de que esta decisión sea adoptada, significaría una oportunidad para el país, puesto que el 50 por ciento de su territorio está ocupado por bosques.

    A este propósito, ya se realizó una prueba en el Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado, siendo una de las zonas forestales del país en la que se implementó un proyecto para mitigar los problemas ambientales que sufre el planeta. Según L. Castello, hace cuatro años, tres empresas norteamericanas decidieron invertir 9 millones de dólares para cultivar 600 mil hectáreas de bosques. A su vez, S. Jáuregui informó que cada hectárea de bosque del parque tiene una capacidad para almacenar 180 toneladas de CO2 y evitar que se vayan a la atmósfera. Ph. Fearnside aseguró que los países industrializados tienen el compromiso de disminuir la emisión del CO2. «Ellos (los países desarrollados) pueden invertir significativas sumas de dinero en Bolivia para motivar a que se mantengan y se cuiden los bosques», finalizó.
    (Fuente: El Deber , 27 de mayo de 2000.)


    The Australia Institute has completed a new analysis of per caput emissions for the 35 Annex B countries. The calculations are based on the official communications submitted by the various nations to the UNFCCC. They apply to emissions of the three main greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) in 1995 from all sources and all sinks measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e). The results show that Australia has the world's highest greenhouse gas emissions per person at 26.7 tonnes; this is twice the average level for all other wealthy countries (13.4 tonnes) and 25 percent higher than emissions per person in the United States (21.2 tonnes). The next highest emitters after Australia are Luxembourg, the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

    The Institute will be pleased to E-mail copies of the report (nine pages) to anyone interested. Simply send a request to: mail@tai.org.au.
    (Source: Forest Information Update (FIU), 5 November 1999.)


    The prospect of global climate change is a matter of genuine public concern. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is increasing and the temperature of the earth's surface is rising. Although there is considerable uncertainty about the magnitude and consequences of these developments, the balance of informed opinion is that humankind is having a discernible effect on the climate and scientists believe there is a link between the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and increased temperature.

    Faced with this uncertainty, BP Amoco believe that adopting a precautionary approach to climate change is the only sensible way forward in these circumstances. What BP Amoco proposes to do is sustainable, real and measurable. That is why BP Amoco has set itself a goal to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 10 percent from a 1990 baseline over the period to 2010.

    In addition, BP Amoco Plc has created a CD-ROM with help and guidance from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, Royal International Affairs, Stockholm Environment Institute, The Open University, the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat and the World Wide Fund for Nature-UK. The CD covers many aspects of climate change and is suitable for the15-year age group and older, and geography and science students. (Source: www.bpamoco.com/climatechange/home.htm )

    For more information, please contact: BP Educational Service, PO Box 934, Bournemouth, Dorset BH8 8YY, UK.
    Fax: +44 1202 244034;


    The carbon aspects of harvested wood products (HWPs) are largely omitted from national accounts in the current International Protocol on Climate Change (IPCC) process. At the moment it has been assumed that the carbon stock in HWPs is relatively constant, so the carbon in all timber harvested is oxidized immediately when removed from the forest. Clearly this is not the case in reality and, while pressure is building up to include HWPs, there is no consensus on which methodology to adopt for this accounting.

    The New Zealand Forest Industries Council commissioned a project to look at the carbon aspects of HWPs and accounting options, so that they are better developed and understood. This information will be used in developing policy and measures, domestically and internationally. This is an important policy issue as New Zealand's harvest levels and forest product export receipts will more than double during the first commitment period from 2008 to 2012. Under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand must stabilize its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.

    One of the conclusions was that HWPs provide a significant potential carbon sink for New Zealand. Instead of assuming instant oxidation greater than 30 MtC, there could be a sink of up to 10 MtC within wood products. (Extracted from: a report by Justin Ford-Robertson, Forest Research Institute, New Zealand. Copies of the report are available from the New Zealand Forest Industries Council, PO Box 2727, Wellington, New Zealand.)

    A recent issue of The Hindu covered the carbon sequestration debate with an article entitled Planting trees does not reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. However, Mr Will Steffen of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme that has pioneered research into the global carbon cycle, defending tree planting said: "This is not to say planting trees is in itself a bad thing. Whether they are absorbing or releasing the gas, they will always be keeping some CO2 out of the atmosphere and providing other ecological benefits. The real danger arises when countries use plans to plant forests as a justification for not cutting their CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels." (Extracted from: Planting trees does not reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. The Hindu, 27 January 2000; www.indiaserver.com/thehindu/2000/01/27/stories/08270001.htm )


    The United States Global Change Research Program today released for public comment a draft report analysing the potential impacts of global climate change on the United States. The report, to be presented to the United States President and Congress following final review, was prepared by a team of scientists from government, academia and the private sector.

    The report, Climate change impacts on the United States: the potential consequences of climate variability and change, provides the most detailed examination ever made of the possible impacts of global warming on the United States over the next 100 years.

    Among its key findings, the draft report indicates that continued growth in worldwide emissions is likely to increase average temperatures across the United States by 5o-10oF (2.8o-5.5oC) by 2100; impacts such as heavier precipitation and increased drought will vary widely from region to region; some natural ecosystems are likely to disappear entirely and others may be severely disrupted; changes in rain and snowfall patterns could affect the availability of fresh water; and crop productivity is likely to rise nationally, although regional cropping patterns may change significantly.

    Regions examined in the draft report are the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, West, Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Native Homelands and Islands. Specific sectors examined are Agriculture, Human Health, Forests, Coastal Zones and Water Resources.

    "One of our most important findings is that, in many cases, regional and local level impacts are much more pronounced than those at the national level," said team co-chair Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. "And the nature of the impacts on a resource can change over time. For example, forest productivity is likely to increase in the short term, while over the longer term, changes in processes such as fire, insects, drought and disease will possibly decrease forest productivity."

    The draft report will be posted on the Internet for a 60-day public comment period, after which the report will undergo final revision before publication and submittal to the President and Congress later this year. The draft report can be viewed at www.gcrio.org/NationalAssessment/. The authors noted that the report is being released in draft form, as required by Congress, and that its conclusions and analyses may be refined or modified according to input received on the part of the public. (Source: Press release from the Office of the US Global Change Research Program, 12 June 2000.)

    For more information, please contact: Scott Smullen, US Global Change Research Program, 400 Virginia Avenue, SW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20024, USA.
    Fax: +1 202 488 8681.


    The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus Toepfer, welcomed President Bill Clinton's proposals to increase United States' support for the development and distribution of clean energy technologies, particularly in developing countries. In the same vein, Mr Toepfer praised the United States' Greening the Globe initiative, calling it a "significant contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of the earth's biological diversity and crucial support, in terms of capacity building, for developing countries' own efforts to preserve the planet's threatened rainforests."

    "The unmet energy needs in developing countries are a severe constraint to development, and help keep billions of people in a poverty cycle that contributes to environmental deterioration," said Toepfer. "Meeting these energy needs with conventional, fossil-fuelled technologies will add unnecessarily to local, regional and world environmental problems, including global warming, which President Clinton has rightly characterized as 'the greatest environmental challenge of the new century'."

    According to UNEP's state of the environment report, Global Environment Outlook 2000, "global emissions of CO2 reached a new high of nearly 23 900 million tonnes in 1996 - nearly four times the 1950 total." The subsequent probable temperature rises will have grave consequences, such as a rise in sea levels, unpredictability in the supply of fresh water and the wholesale loss of important ecosystems and biodiversity.

    As noted in President Clinton's budget proposal to Congress for fiscal year 2001, renewable energy technologies - including wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, tidal, mini hydro and biomass - are critical to a sustainable energy future. Unfamiliarity with these alternatives as well as their higher initial cost discourage investment. Energy infrastructure is very costly and long-lived, so the investment choices made during the next few years will have environmental consequences that will extend into the middle of the twenty-first century.

    "The US initiative can help decision-makers in developing countries understand better the attractive features of clean energy options and make choices that benefit their own economies, the health of their citizens, and the global environment," said Toepfer. The United States is also making a significant contribution to protecting forest biodiversity through its Greening the Globe proposal, especially with the world losing an average of 15 million ha of forest per year and tropical forests vanishing at the rate of 100 ha per minute. The initiative, if enacted, will combine capacity-building components with "debt-for-nature" swaps and the use of economic instruments such as multilateral investment standards. (Source: UNEP News Release, 7 February 2000.)


    The World Bank has launched the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), the world's first market-based mechanism to address climate change and promote the transfer of finance and climate-friendly technology to developing countries.

    The PCF offers a tremendous opportunity to boost financial and technology flows to developing countries at a time when government-to-government transfers have fallen to historically low levels," said James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank. "We are determined to explore how market-based mechanisms such as the PCF - involving the considerable financial muscle of the private sector - can contribute to addressing the twin challenges of climate change and sustainable development. We are concerned about the vulnerability of poor people in poor countries to the threat of climate change. For an institution whose task is to alleviate poverty, we would be negligent if we failed to explore innovative ways of making the climate change convention work," he said.

    Governments have recognized the seriousness of the threat of climate change and during the 1990s negotiated the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol, which guides implementation of the Convention, includes specific targets for industrialized countries for reducing emissions. It also contains provisions allowing some flexibility so that countries can meet these commitments to reduce emissions in the most cost-effective manner.

    The PCF, established in the World Bank with contributions from governments and private companies, is an ambitious first attempt to experiment with the creation of a market in emissions reductions under these "flexibility" provisions. It will invest in cleaner technologies in developing countries and transition economies, thus reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions reductions will be independently verified and certified, and then transferred to the Fund's contributors in the form of emissions reduction certificates rather than cash.

    Advantages of the PCF

    · Poor countries will gain access to climate-friendly technologies as well as earning revenue from selling emissions reductions.

    · Contributors will receive low-cost emissions reductions to help them meet their commitments arising from the Kyoto Protocol.

    · The environment will benefit because the PCF provides poor countries with funds to switch to cleaner and more efficient technologies.

    · Widespread public awareness of an important new market and business activity.

    So far, four governments and nine companies have approved participation in the PCF, bringing the total of committed contributions to US$85 million. The Fund is capped at US$150 million and operations were due to start in April 2000.

    Governments that have approved participation in the PCF are Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Private sector participants include the Japanese electric power companies of Tokyo, Chubu, Chugoku, Kyushu, Shikoku and Tohoku, and the trading houses Mitsubishi and Mitsui, as well as the Belgian electric utility company, Electrabel.

    In addition, participation in the PCF is currently under active discussion by the top management at Statoil and NorskHydro of Norway, Gaz de France of France, Environmental Banc and Exchange LLC (EBX) of the United States and SK Power of Denmark.

    As the manager of the PCF, the World Bank will act as broker in helping to negotiate a price for the emissions reductions that is reasonable for both buyers and sellers. Developing countries will benefit by acquiring cleaner technology and making a profit from trade in a potentially plentiful "product" - greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Industrialized country contributors will gain by paying a lower price for emissions reductions than is available in the context of their own companies or countries.

    "There are many opportunities to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in developing countries at a cost of between US$5 and US$15 per tonne of carbon. This compares with a marginal abatement cost of upwards of US$50 per tonne of carbon in advanced economies. It is the difference in cost to industrialized and developing countries of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that provides the opportunity for mutually beneficial trading relationships" says Ken Newcombe, Manager of the PCF for the World Bank. "We will endeavor to negotiate prices for emissions reductions at about US$20 per tonne of carbon (US$5 per tonne of CO2), thus covering the regulatory and market risks to contributors while providing adequate incentives to project sponsors and their governments in developing countries."

    The emission reductions from PCF projects may eventually be used against industrialized countries' commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Kyoto Protocol, they must bring them down to at least 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels by the end of 2012. Whether the emission reductions earned by the PCF will count towards these commitments depends on rules being developed by the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that should be defined when the Conference of the Parties meets in The Hague in November 2000.

    During the next three years, the World Bank will invest all the Fund's capital in 20 or so projects. Most are expected to be linked to projects identified by the World Bank Group as part of its regular work, but they can also originate from the private sector, other multilateral development banks and bilateral donors. The primary focus will be on renewable energy technologies - such as wind, small hydro and bioenergy technology - that would not be profitable without revenue from emissions reductions sold to the PCF. In some cases the PCF will finance such projects through local carbon funds modelled on the PCF but using financing from local commercial and development banks, as well as private companies. Some 20 countries have already expressed interest in hosting PCF projects. (Source: World Bank News Release No. 2000/176/S, 18 January 2000.)

    For more information, please see the Prototype Carbon Fund Web site: www.prototypecarbonfund.org


    The following two new publications from Forest Trends are available on their Web site:

    Getting it right: emerging markets for storing carbon in forests is part of initial research mounted by Forest Trends, in conjunction with the World Resources Institute.

    The potential for businesses and the environmental community to find common solutions that use forests to mitigate the climate-warming dangers of greenhouse gases are set out. While there are a number of outstanding issues that still need to be resolved around measurement, time frames, methodologies, and verification, the momentum to create a market for forests as sinks of carbon emissions is clearly accelerating. Serious interest from major insurance companies is a strong signal of this momentum.


    Carbon forestry projects in developing countries: legal issues and tools, by Patsy Davis.


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