Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

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Sustainable Development

Article 2 of the Kyoto Protocol calls on Annex I Parties to promote sustainable development in the course of reducing GHG emissions, including the implementation of policies and measures undertaken in LULUCF. Article 12 explicitly identifies the achievement of sustainable development, along with the reduction of GHGs, as a central purpose and requirement of project activities undertaken in non-Annex I countries through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

To implement the Protocol, the Parties will likely face a series of decisions and tradeoffs on a broad range of environmental and socioeconomic impacts on biodiversity; the quantity and quality of forest, grazing land, soil, and water resources; the ability to provide food, fiber, fuel, and shelter; and employment, poverty, and equity.

Although generalizing the impacts of LULUCF activities and projects on sustainable development across activities, locations, and time is difficult, the Parties may wish to consider a variety of broad environmental and socioeconomic synergies and tradeoffs:

  • Converting non-forest land to forest will typically increase the diversity of flora and fauna, except in situations where biologically diverse non-forest ecosystems, such as native grasslands, are replaced by forests consisting of single or a few species. These negative impacts can be mitigated, however, by measures that lengthen rotations, maintain understory vegetation, use native tree species, and minimize chemical inputs. Avoiding deforestation can provide potentially large co-benefits, including protection of biodiversity, water, and soil resources and maintenance of non-timber forest products and services.
  • Converting land from agricultural use to forest or avoiding the conversion of forests to agriculture on the margin enhances the socioeconomic role of the forest sector and diminishes the role of the agricultural sector. Where agricultural land is scarce (i.e., through high population growth and/or expanding cultivation), the economic and social impacts could be large unless forest expansion/conservation is coupled with agricultural intensification and related measures.
  • Changing the management of forests to store more carbon (or release less carbon) will alter the size and structure of forests. More intensive forms of management that increase tree biomass may make more timber available for eventual harvest, but such management may also impart some negative consequences on other ecosystem components. Alternatively, if current commercial management practices are modified to leave more biomass in the forest for longer periods of time (e.g., extended rotation lengths, reduced-impact logging), other ecosystem functions may benefit while timber production is curtailed.
  • Managing agricultural soils to sequester more carbon is likely to reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility. Thus, the opportunity costs of these activities may be relatively low if they enhance rather than diminish food security for affected populations.

In implementing Articles 2 and 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, the Parties may decide whether to establish international or national criteria to ensure that LULUCF activities and projects are consistent with sustainable development objectives. With regard to activities within countries or projects between countries, if criteria vary significantly across countries or regions, there may be incentives to locate activities and projects in areas with less stringent environmental or socioeconomic criteria.

A system of criteria and indicators could be used to assess and compare sustainable development impacts across LULUCF alternatives. No agreed-upon set of indicators currently exists, however. Parties could draw from a variety of systems under development for closely related purposes, such as criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management or the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, to develop an assessment tool for LULUCF measures under the Protocol.

Several sustainable development objectives are the focus of other multilateral environmental agreements, including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Parties may need to decide whether and how to ensure that LULUCF definitions, activities, and projects are implemented in a manner that is consistent with the goals and objectives of these Conventions and other relevant international agreements.

There are a variety of ways to assess the sustainable development impacts of LULUCF projects, depending on who has responsibility for performing the assessment, what standards are used, and how the standards are developed. Assessment standards can be based on local, regional, sectoral, national, or international criteria.

More formal approaches to sustainable development assessment that could be applied at the project level include environmental and socioeconomic impact assessments, ISO 14000, and forest certification. These methods have been applied across a wide range of activities and countries, and they could be modified so that they are applicable to LULUCF projects. Their use could raise project costs and slow implementation, however.

Key logistical factors affecting the sustainable development contributions of LULUCF activities and projects include institutional and technical capacity to develop and implement guidelines and procedures; the extent and effectiveness of local community participation in development and implementation; and technology transfer and adaptation.

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