Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Toolbox

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation


The Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Module aims to assist forest managers in assessing and responding to climate-change challenges and opportunities. It provides both basic and more detailed information on key issues to be considered in assessing climate-change vulnerability and risks and adaptation and mitigation options. The module provides links to important tools and to cases in which these tools have been applied in forestry to adapt to, and mitigate the impacts of, climate change.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation contributes to SDGs:

The effects of climate change and climate variability on forest ecosystems are evident around the world and further impacts are unavoidable, at least in the short to medium term. The potential impacts vary across regions, with some forest types more vulnerable than others; they include both increased and decreased plant growth, an increased frequency and intensity of fire and disease, and an increase in the severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, rainstorms and wind. In some cases, climate change is impairing the ability of forests to deliver critical wood and non-wood products and environmental services, such as watershed protection, to the detriment of the livelihoods of forest dwellers, forest-dependent communities and others who benefit from forests.

Meeting the challenges posed by climate change requires adjustments to forest strategies and to forest management plans and practices. Delays in taking action will increase the cost and difficulty of making those adjustments.

Adaptation and mitigation in forestry

Adaptation and mitigation are the two main responses to climate change. They are two sides of the same coin: mitigation addresses the causes of climate change and adaptation addresses its impacts.

In the forest sector, adaptation encompasses changes in management practices designed to decrease the vulnerability of forests to climate change and interventions intended to reduce the vulnerability of people to climate change.

Mitigation strategies in the forest sector can be grouped into four main categories: reducing emissions from deforestation; reducing emissions from forest degradation; enhancing forest carbon sinks; and product substitution. Substitution comprises the use of wood instead of fossil fuels for energy and the use of wood fibre in place of materials such as cement, steel and aluminium, the production of which involve the emission of large quantities of greenhouse gases.

Climate-change mitigation measures, including in forests, are urgently needed to help reduce human-induced interference with the climate system, but such measures will only begin to have an effect on global mean surface temperatures decades from now. For this reason, adaptation measures in forests to secure the continued delivery of forest goods and environmental services will be required for many years to come.

Climate change and SFM

As climatic conditions move beyond historical ranges, climate-change adaptation and mitigation will require the adjustment of management objectives, approaches and monitoring systems. Fortunately, SFM is consistent with both adaptation and mitigation and provides a comprehensive framework that can be adapted to changing circumstances. Forest managers will need to factor climate change into their planning and to adjust their management practices accordingly to reduce vulnerability and to facilitate adaptation to climate change.

Forest managers will also need to put greater emphasis on risk management and to weigh the costs of changes in forest management against the likely benefits, keeping in mind that the costs of climate-change adaptation measures are likely to increase the longer they are delayed. Forest managers should aim to optimize the potential benefits of climate change by taking advantage of policy incentives and financial support mechanisms for climate-change adaptation and mitigation.

Climate change poses crucial challenges but may also create new opportunities for the forest sector. Forest managers (and other stakeholders) will need to take these into consideration. They will also need to consider responses to climate change in the context of the multiple goods and environmental services that forests provide to meet the diverse needs of a wide range of stakeholders.