Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

Other reports in this collection

2.5.1. LULUCF Activities and Sustainable Development

The Brundtland Commission has suggested that sustainable development is "development that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future" (Brundtland, 1987). At its core, sustainable development seeks to increase the flow of goods and services generated by economic activity, while maintaining or increasing the stock and quality of natural and human capital engaged or affected by the activity (Maler, 1990; Munasinghe, 1993, 2000). Because capital has natural and human dimensions, sustainable development reaches beyond the traditional emphasis on growth in aggregate income (e.g., gross national product) to include environmental quality and social equity (OECD, 1998; Munasinghe, 2000). Thus, a core objective of sustainable development is to balance social, economic, and environmental activities and capital to improve current human welfare, while ensuring a sound foundation for future generations to maintain or improve their welfare (Solow, 1993).

Coincident with reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, LULUCF mitigation activities are likely to generate associated impacts that could substantially affect sustainable development objectives. For the purposes of this Special Report, these associated impacts are categorized as primarily environmental or primarily socioeconomic in nature, although the distinctions between the two categories are rarely clear-cut. Environmental consequences of LULUCF activities include effects on biodiversity and land and water resources. Carbon mitigation objectives will generally be interwoven with traditional economic and social factors that affect land-use decisions, such as the demand for food, fiber, fuel, building materials, and habitable land. As a result, LULUCF activities may generate socioeconomic impacts through changes in producer and consumer welfare, employment, poverty, and equity. If the ultimate goal of sustainable development is to generate the optimal mix of all (climate-related and other) environmental and socioeconomic benefits, tradeoffs are likely. Areas and activities with the greatest CO2 reduction benefits may not produce the optimal mix of non-CO2 impacts for all stakeholders. For instance, areas with the greatest benefit for a given investment in carbon offsets may not always provide the greatest biodiversity benefits (Fearnside, 1995)-although there are several means by which the two objectives can be strongly linked, should the Parties be interested in doing so.

Because land-use decisions typically are driven by factors other than GHG mitigation, direct regulation or economic incentives often may be needed to incorporate carbon considerations into land-use decisions, particularly in the case of private lands. Land-use decisions typically are based on an assessment of costs and benefits that derives from consideration of a complex range of factors specific to each land unit; therefore, achieving global objectives relating to GHGs may require a mixture of regulatory and voluntary instruments. To the extent that economic incentives such as carbon credits compensate landowners for voluntarily changing their practices, those landowners can be at least as well off economically after the change. There are Parties other than the landowner, however, for whom the change in land use or management may affect their welfare either positively or negatively. For instance, modification of land-use or management practices may change employment opportunities or affect environmental quality either positively or negatively. Therefore, important indirect effects of LULUCF activities on the environment and socioeconomic welfare are likely to remain; the Parties may want to consider these effects in planning and implementing strategies for fostering LULUCF activities.

For the purposes of this discussion, LULUCF activities to mitigate climate change under the Protocol can be categorized as follows:6

  • Activities that increase or maintain the area of land in forests. This category relates primarily to Article 3.3 activities of afforestation, reforestation, and (avoided) deforestation. From a sustainable development perspective, there may be important differences between activities that convert non-forest land to forest and those that protect existing forests from conversion. Reducing deforestation rates can avoid significant carbon emissions (especially in the tropics) and reduce associated environmental and social problems.
  • Activities that manage forests to store more carbon. Changing the management of forests to store more carbon will alter the size and structure of forests. Although more intensive forms of management to increase tree biomass (e.g., more intensive efforts at regeneration, fertilization) may make more timber available for eventual harvest, they also may impart some negative consequences on other ecosystem functions. 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, selective logging), other ecosystem functions may benefit while timber production is curtailed.
  • Activities that manage non-forested lands to store more carbon. As an alternative to afforestation or reforestation, carbon stocks in non-forested lands can be increased through changes in management practices-including agricultural soil management, grassland management, and agroforestry. These activities can have strong implications for sustainable development because of their interconnection with food production, rural poverty, and attendant consequences for the environment.
  • Activities that reduce dependence on fossil fuels through product substitution. LULUCF activities can reduce dependence on fossil fuels primarily by providing a source of biomass that can be used as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels in generating energy and by supplying wood products that can substitute for other products requiring more energy to produce. Fossil fuel substitution will generally require investments in technology and infrastructure to enable the adoption of biofuels and less carbon-intensive products and processes.

Generalizing the impacts of LULUCF activities on sustainable development across activities, locations, and time, is difficult. Core environmental and socioeconomic aspects are discussed in the following sections. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 provide more detail on the impacts of specific activities and projects.

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage