Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Climate-smart forestry

Production and Resources


Deforestation causes nearly 20 percent of global emissions - more than the world’s transport sector. Forests play important roles in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, absorbing 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, about one-third of the carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels (CIFOR, undated) . The capacity of forests to remove carbon from the atmosphere decreases as they are cut down. Forest loss and forest degradation are both causes and effects of climate change. Reducing forest loss will reduce carbon emissions.

Forests are crucial for reducing emissions from the agriculture and land-use sectors. They are also important for reducing the effects of climate change on people, and maintaining and strengthening food security. As the REDD+ debate has made clear, the mitigation role of forests and trees has become prominent in climate change policy. Forest communities should leverage their potential role in greenhouse gas emission reductions in ways that ensure that their food security and adaptation needs are not compromised. A climate-smart agriculture strategy that ignores the role of forests and trees will undermine policies to reduce deforestation. 

Actions for climate-smart forestry are needed both across and within landscapes. Even on land located far from forests, increases in agricultural productivity would reduce pressures to clear forests and at the same time increase food availability. A diverse set of within-landscape management practices exists that can improve food security, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, or both. However, the adoption of such practices is often limited by a lack of information and by financial and institutional frameworks that constrain climate-smart agriculture policies and investment strategies. Most countries already have agricultural development plans, forest policies and national climate change policies and strategies. Efforts should be undertaken to formulate a coordinated vision that integrates these initiatives into a coherent investment strategy. The development of a national climate-smart agriculture strategy presents an opportunity to promote coordination among stakeholders working in agricultural development, forestry and climate change. It can bring them together to articulate a unified vision of agricultural development in the face of climate change.