Forestry takes on the climate change challenge

Global organizations team up to ensure contribution of forests

5 December 2008, Poznàn - To ensure that sustainably managed forests play a key role in mitigating the negative effects of climate change, a new strategic framework is being launched jointly by 14 international organizations known as the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, FAO said today.

Aimed at policy-makers and those involved in the global forest sector, the Strategic Framework emphasizes the importance of assisting countries to take measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Adaptation measures include the conservation of genetic variation, reduced impact logging and policies that ensure effective management responses to ecological change. The new framework supports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Forests cover nearly one-third of the earth's land surface and account for almost half its terrestrial carbon pool. Total carbon in forests was estimated at 633 giga tonnes in 2005 - equivalent to 160 tonnes of carbon per hectare, according to the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment.

Deforestation, forest degradation and other changes in forests contribute significantly — 17.4 percent — to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly in tropical developing countries. Most deforestation is caused by the expansion of agriculture and urban and infrastructure development.

management the key

"Sustainable forest management has a significant strategic role in achieving long-term climate change mitigation and it provides a robust framework for effective adaptation. This goes far beyond traditional management and includes conservation of biodiversity, support to livelihoods, provision of a range of forest goods and services, and issues related to governance and financing, " says Jan Heino, Chairperson of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry.

Forests make a substantial contribution to the mitigation of climate change through carbon sequestration, carbon substitution, and carbon conservation. The extent to which they do so is a function of their management and the effectiveness of policies at the local, national and global levels.

Wood is a renewable resource and, when obtained from sustainably managed forests, an efficient material for storing carbon. Although wood-harvesting temporarily reduces carbon storage in the forest, a large part of the harvested carbon can be stored in wood products for many decades. When wood is used in long-term products such as housing and furniture, the reduction in green house gas emissions is substantial compared to other, more energy-intensive and carbon-intensive substitutes such as concrete, steel, aluminium and plastics.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests strategic framework lays the groundwork for a coordinated forest-sector response to the global climate change agenda. It's force is in the fact that it has been jointly created and agreed by the world's major forest organizations. It is offered as guidelines to all forest-related policy-makers and practitioners around the world.

© Gillian Allard
Sustainably managed forests play a key role in mitigating the negative effects of climate change.