Climate Change: Catalysing Synergies
Climate change is affecting the entire forest sector with all its stakeholders and is perceived as a common challenge. A decision for whether and how forests will be dealt with in the post 2012 climate arrangement is expected to be negotiated at the UNCCC COP 15 at Copenhagen, Denmark, in early December. In preparation for Copenhagen 2009, the XIII World Forests Congress invites the global community to a Forum on Forests and Climate Change, a unique occasion for debate which aims to produce a recommendation of a technical nature, which will be presented to the UNCCC COP 15.
Forests are linked with climate change in various ways - they are affected by climate change, when degraded or removed, they contribute to climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and they contribute to climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during afforestation and reforestation. Furthermore, the use of wood for products and fuel reduces GHG emissions from competing, more carbon-intensive products.
According to the FAO (2005), deforestation worldwide, mainly conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at an alarming rate (approximately 13 million hectares per year for the period 1990–2005). Deforestation and forest degradation result in immediate release of the carbon originally stored in the trees as CO2 emissions, particularly if the trees are burned, and the biomass decays. The IPCC WG III (2007) estimated emissions from deforestation in the 1990s to be at 5.8 GtCO2/yr, accounting for roughly 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC also notes that reducing and/or preventing deforestation and forest degradation are the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate global carbon stock impact in the short term, per hectare and per year, as the release of carbon as emissions into the atmosphere is prevented.
With the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report has come more certainty that climate change is an inevitable consequence of past and present human activities. Observations of current impacts of climate-mediated events on forests include diebacks and mass mortality and changes in tree physiology, forest biodiversity, forest growth and productivity. Forests interact intimately with climate and are also an essential part of many societies, especially in the developing world. Climate change is already affecting people and livelihoods and in despite of incomplete knowledge and uncertainties, forest adaptation is possible, but it is necessary to have a plan and act rapidly.