IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

12.3.2 Forestry sector

Mitigation options in the forestry sector may be categorized as those that (1) avoid emissions from deforestation or forest degradation; (2) sequester carbon through forestation; and (3) substitute for energy intensive materials or fossil fuels.

Reducing or avoiding deforestation has considerable environmental benefits. It can retain biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and in cases of large land areas, affect local weather patterns (see Section 9.7.2). Reduction of forest fires improves local air quality. Many deforesting countries have laws that promote conservation of forest areas. The lack of enforcement of laws that ban or limit deforestation or timber extraction has allowed illegal extraction of logs and the burning of forests in Indonesia (Boer, 2001) and Brazil (Boer, 2001; Fearnside, 2001). Avoiding deforestation is relatively expensive, since the opportunity cost of deforested land is high due to its high timber and land values. Stakeholders such as land owners, migrant workers, and local saw mills would be negatively affected.

Transparency and participatory approaches have played a key role in reducing communal tensions and allowed communities to reap the same or larger benefits within an organized legal framework. The Joint Forest Management Programme in India has created a community-based approach to manage forest fringe areas to reduce forest logging for fuelwood and encroachment on forest lands for agriculture (Behera and Engel, 2005). Successful implementation requires that alternative livelihood be provided to the deforesters, programmes to promote forest management jointly with the local population be pursued, and that enforcement be stricter.

Afforestation can provide carbon benefits by increasing carbon stocks on land and in products. Trees planted on wasteland can arrest soil degradation and help manage water runoff. Soil carbon can be increased to the extent soil disturbance during planting and harvesting is minimized. Planting in conjunction with agricultural crops (agro-forestry) enhances economic benefits while increasing food security. Afforestation activities are generally undertaken in rural areas and benefit the rural economy and generate employment for rural dwellers. Clear delineation of property rights would expedite the implementation of forestation programmes. A major concern is that forestation may diminish food security if it were to occur primarily on rich agricultural land, and that monoculture plantations would reduce biodiversity and increase the risk of catastrophic failure due to diseases. Conversion of floodplains and wetlands to forest plantations could hamper ecological functions.

Afforestation activities can also yield biomass fuel that may be used as a fossil fuel substitute in power plants or as a liquid fuel substitute. Palm-tree plantations are also a rich source of bio-diesel fuel. These sustainable development benefits and potential trade-offs also apply to bioenergy plantations. In regions, where crop residues (rice husks, sugarcane bagasse, nut shells, and/or tree trimmings) are available, these can be harvested synergistically with the crops and pose less potential sustainable development trade-offs.

Forest management activities include sustainable management of native forests, prevention of fires and pests, longer rotation periods, minimizing soil disturbance, reduced harvesting, promoting understory diversity, fertilizer application, and selective and reduced logging. Most of these activities bring positive social and environmental benefits. Minimizing soil disturbance may result in less use of fossil fuels, less emissions from biomass burning, and more employment if less machinery is used. The prevention of fires may result in larger fire events later due to excessive accumulation of fuel. Therefore, such practice should be linked to other practices such as sustainable wood fuel production. Theoretically, N fertilizer application increases net primary productivity (NPP) (and CO2 removals), but there is a trade-off since at the same time it increases N2O emissions and may contaminate waters with nitrates.

Some of the social benefits of mitigation policies come through education, training, participation as an integral part of a policy. Participatory approaches to forest management can be more successful than traditional, hierarchical programmes (Stoll, 2003). These participatory programmes can also help to strengthen civil society and democratization. Participatory approaches can create social capital (Dasgupta, 1993): networks and social relations which allow humans to cope better with their livelihoods.