National Forest Monitoring

Options for managing the risk of non-permanence in forest-based mitigation

05/12/2023

Carbon storage in forests is at risk from reversals, with stored carbon in forests being released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2). This poses a risk to forest-based climate change mitigation. Forest restoration, avoided deforestation, and sustainable forest management can all help mitigate the risks of climate change. Natural events such as fire, wind, extreme weather, pests, and illegal harvesting can contribute to risk of reversal.

Carbon standards include approaches designed to guarantee the permanence of emission reductions and carbon removals. These approaches are technically complex, requiring risk assessments to be undertaken, and a way to address risks that may occur many years into the future. Despite years of experience, there is an ongoing active discussion on the methodological options. 

In the second half of 2023, FAO launched an effort to analyze and explore these methodological approaches to addressing non-permanence risks. FAO commissioned the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Öko-Institut (Oeko) to conduct a study on non-permanence approaches in leading carbon standards. This study aims to collect lessons learned from carbon markets and inform the management of non-permanence risks under various carbon crediting systems, particularly in forestry and land use. The work is a part of the AIM4Forests programme which is working to address methodological challenges related to forest monitoring and reporting with support from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

First results: a webinar in the run-up to COP 28

The recent webinar on "Options for Addressing the Non-Permanence of Forest-Based Mitigation" presented first results, taking place on November 21st, 2023. The event brought together key experts and stakeholders for a discussion about methodological issues and their potential implications for governments of forest countries hosting mitigation activities. More than 100 participants attended the session, where speakers provided valuable insights into ongoing initiatives and strategies to address this pressing issue.

The webinar featured opening remarks from Maggie Charnley (Head of the UK's International Forests Unit) and Julian Fox (Team Leader of the National Forest Monitoring at FAO). Julian Fox explained the complexity of non-permanence of forest-based mitigation action, and Maggie Charnley highlighted how the AIM4Forests programme seeks to contribute to this discussion. The keynote presentation was delivered by researchers Derik Broekhoff (SEI) and Lambert Schneider (Oeko), discussing non-permanence risk factors for each mitigation action, deep-diving into possible approaches for addressing non-permanence risk, and key considerations for forest countries in approving Article 6 activities. In the subsequent panel discussion, Federica Bietta from the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) reflected more on the approaches for addressing non-permanence risk, specifically insurance and creating reserves. Linking to the latest recommendations on removals published by the Article 6.4 Supervisory Body ahead of COP28, Molly Peters Stanley (US State Department and co-chair A6.4 SB removals WG) highlighted that the recommendations on removals address the complexity of permanence through the emphasis on risk. Lastly, panelist Daniel Benefoh (Ghana EPA) reflected on the importance of addressing non-permanence risk under the Ghana's Article 6 framework, especially at the project level.