Expert voices Vol 20, No. 04 - April 2016

Forests essential to combat climate change

Ahead of the historic moment when world leaders will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change at UN Headquarters on 22 April, Mr. Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of UN Forum on Forests Secretariat in UN DESA, explains how forests are essential to combat climate change.

Why is it not possible to combat climate change and global warming without conserving, enhancing and sustaining healthy forests?
“As the UN Secretary-General highlighted in his message on the International Day of Forests on 21 March, “forests provide one of the most cost-effective and efficient natural carbon capture and storage systems”. Reducing deforestation and forest degradation lowers greenhouse gas emissions and increases carbon sequestration. Conserving and enhancing healthy forests also helps adapt to climate change and strengthens climate resilience of communities.”

To what extent are deforestation and forest degradation linked to global warming?
“Forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle, both by absorbing carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and storing carbon in their biomass, soils and forest products.

According to estimates by FAO, the total carbon emissions from forests decreased by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2015, mainly due to a slowdown in global deforestation rates. Forest-based climate change mitigation actions are widely recognised as one of the most cost-effective ways of stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas emissions.”

What are the different sources to finance forests management and protection?
“The forest financing “landscape” is highly complex, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach because each country has its own specific financing context. In general, public financing for forests usually comes from government revenue and revenue from state-owned forests. At the international level, public financing sources include bilateral aid agencies and multilateral financing institutions.

Private sources for forest financing are diversified, ranging from institutional and individual investors and the forest industry to NGOs. In 2015, the UN Forum on Forests established the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) to assist countries in mobilizing and supporting new and additional financial resources for sustainable forest management. The GFFFN assists countries to access existing and emerging forest financing mechanisms, including for example, the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund.”

Does the Paris Agreement, which will be signed on 22 April, specifically integrate forests management aspects and forest-related climate change mitigation and adaptation measures?
“Article 5 of the Paris Agreement specifically integrates forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in the operational scheme of the Agreement. Article 5.1 states that Parties should take action to ‘conserve’ and ‘enhance’ sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases including forests. Article 5.2 encourages ‘implementation’ and ‘support’, among others, of REDD+, and alternative policy approaches such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for integral and sustainable management of forests.”

What must States do and what measures need to be taken to support forest protection, sustainable management and restoration?
“While significant progress has been made in sustainably managing the world’s forests –significant challenges remain that need further action, by Member States and all other forest stakeholders. These include:
• We need to further reduce deforestation, ideally stopping illegal deforestation altogether;
• We need to reduce reliance on unsustainably harvested firewood;
• We need to prevent and control forest fires. As a result of climate change and drought conditions, this a growing challenge in both developed and developing countries;
• We need to increase forest plantation areas, to meet the growing need for wood products and carbon sequestration, as well as jobs and income.
• We need to ensure fair and remunerative prices for sustainably produced forest products and support for payments for their environmental services (such as carbon sequestration);
• We need to illicit trade in wildlife and forest products.

For more information:

UN Forum on Forests

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

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