Key messages

The world’s forests play a central role in combating climate change by absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere in their vegetation and soils.

  • Almost as much carbon is stored in forests (650 billion tons) as in the atmosphere (760 billion tons).
  • Forests are crucial in helping us adapt to climate change as they help ensure water availability, protect against landslides, prevent desertification and provide alternative livelihoods for people.
  • Protecting forests conserves the biodiversity that is vital for plants, humans and other animals to adapt to climate change.   
  • Forests have four major roles in climate change: their clearance, overuse and degradation contribute about one-sixth of global carbon emissions; they react sensitively to a changing climate; when managed sustainably, they produce woodfuels as a benign alternative to fossil fuels; and finally, they have the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century into their biomass, soils and products and store them - in principle in perpetuity. 

Video

Publications

Integration of remote-sensing and ground-based observations for estimation of emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in forests 24 November 2016 The Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) was established(1) by GEO in 2011, to assist countries to produce reliable, consistent reports on change in forest cover and forest use, and associated anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removals. [more]
The State of Food and Agriculture 2016: Climate change, agriculture and food security 24 November 2016 The Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, represents a new beginning in the global effort to stabilize the climate before it is too late. It recognizes the importance of food security in the international response to climate change, as reflected by many countries focusing prominently on the agriculture sector in their planned contributions to adaptation and mitigation. To help put those plans into action, this report identifies strategies, financing opportunities, and data and information needs. It also describes transformative policies and institutions that can overcome barriers to implementation. [more]
FAO's work on climate change: Forests and Climate Change 24 November 2016 The publication aims to provide a broad range of data and statistics on forests, and the impact and benefits that forestry has on our environment. It also offers some general information and data about the impact forests and forestry can have in mitigating the effects of climate change, as well as information concerning how they are, in turn, affected by climate change. [more]
FAO's Work on Climate Change 23 November 2016 The Conference of the Parties (COP) of UNFCCC provides a key opportunity to communicate FAO’s work on climate change and to liaise with potential partners. This booklet was created for COP to increase awareness of the impact of climate change on food security and nutrition and of the importance of the agricultural sectors in climate change mechanisms, policies and finances. [more]
Action Against Desertification - Fact sheet 27 October 2016 Action Against Desertification supports local communities, government and civil society of six African countries - Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal – as well as Fiji and Haiti in the sustainable management and restoration of their drylands and fragile ecosystems affected by desertification, land degradation and drought. [more]
Land restoration - fact sheet 27 October 2016 In 2016 Action Against Desertification is gearing up to restore 10 000 hectares of land and plant well-adapted native species of trees, shrubs and grasses in six African countries – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. [more]
Integrated policy for forests, food security and sustainable livelihoods: lessons from the Republic of Korea 27 October 2016 In the 1950s and 1960s, the Republic of Korea was one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Deforestation had stripped the country of half its forest cover, contributing to severe erosion, repetitive flood and drought damage and a decrease in agricultural production which threatened national food security. Recognizing the importance of forests’ watershed and soil protection functions in restoring agricultural productivity, the government undertook an intensive forest rehabilitation effort. [more]
Trees, forests and land use in drylands: The first global assessment 27 October 2016 Drylands cover about 41 percent of the Earth’s land surface and are home to 2 billion people, the majority of whom depend on forests and other wooded lands, grasslands and trees on farms for income and to meet basic needs. Yet surprising little is known about such ecosystems in drylands, despite widespread recognition of the need to restore drylands to cope with the effects of drought, desertification, land degradation and climate change. This document presents preliminary results of the first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in drylands. It reports, among other things, that the global drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forest, which is more than one-quarter of the global forest area. There are also about 13.5 billion trees outside forests in drylands. More than 200 experts with knowledge of the land and land uses in specific dryland regions conducted the assessment, using freely available satellite imagery and a newly developed survey methodology. The pioneering study by FAO and many partners will be fully reported later in 2016. [more]
Forestry for a low-carbon future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies 27 October 2016 Following the introduction, Chapter 2 provides an overview of mitigation in the forest sector, addressing the handling of forests under UNFCCC. Chapters 3 to 5 focus on forest-based mitigation options – afforestation, reforestation, REDD+ and forest management – and Chapters 6 and 7 focus on wood-product based options – wood energy and green building and furnishing. The publication describes these activities in the context of UNFCCC rules, assessing their mitigation potential and economic attractiveness as well as opportunities and challenges for implementation. Chapter 8 discusses the different considerations involved in choosing the right mix of options as well as some of the instruments and means for implementation. Chapter 8 also highlights the co-benefits generated by forest-based mitigation and emphasizes that economic assessment of mitigation options needs to take these benefits into account. The concluding chapter assesses national commitments under UNFCCC involving forest mitigation and summarizes the challenges and opportunities. [more]
REDD+ and FLEGT: Working Together to Strengthen Forest Governance and Mitigate Climate Change 27 October 2016 Forest loss contributes to one-sixth of annual greenhouse gas emissions, making it a major contributor to climate change. Experience shows that approaches to reducing deforestation and forest degradation and strengthening forest governance – such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) – can be far more effective in countering forest loss if they are jointly implemented. To date, however, few countries have capitalized on the synergies between these processes. Widely acknowledged similarities between the objectives of REDD+ and FLEGT initiatives present obvious opportunities for common action to address deforestation and strengthen forest governance. Both REDD+ and FLEGT share a number of common goals and approaches and target the same actors – forest sector stakeholders from government entities, local communities and indigenous people, as well as the private sector. Both are incentive-based mechanisms to promote the sustainable management of forests, and both place strong emphasis on forest governance for their success. [more]

Audio

Towards a better conservation of forest resources in Viet Nam
Duration: 4 min

Monitoring carbon stocks in Tanzania Duration: 4min.27sec Format: mp3

Field projects

Through FAO support, forest users in Mongolia are able to reverse deforestation. Within this context, FAO works for herders in five Mongolian provinces to improve forest management, as well as improve the livelihoods of herders. This initiative has been possible through cooperation with Mongolia's government and funding from the Government of the Netherlands.

  • Forest rangers patrol forested hills as members of forest user groups, mainly established through the support of FAO and local authorities. For instance, they maintain a continuous lookout for scenes indicating illegal logging activities, forest fires or any other disturbances. 
  • Group members receive training in forest assessment, mapping, management planning and in the marketing of forest products. This allows user groups to develop their own forest management plans, according to their community's needs and goals.
  • This participatory forest management project has changed the way Mongolians interact with their forests, while at the same time allowing forest regeneration to take place.

FAO's forest and climate change program works to enhance national and international action on forests and climate change adaptation and mitigation. This is achieved through the strengthening of technical capacities and collaboration with its partners and stakeholders, such as international organizations, NGOs and academics.  

On request from member countries, FAO provides support on forest and climate change. This is done through workshops and information materials (publications and policy briefs). The program has developed guidelines to assist countries integrate climate change at the policy level and is in the process of finalizing guidelines at the field level.    

 
last updated:  Wednesday, February 1, 2017