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

9.5.2 Mitigation and adaptation synergies

The mitigation and adaptation trade-offs and synergies in the forestry sector are dealt with in Klein et al. (2007). Many of the response strategies to address climate change, such as Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Activities under Article 3.3 and Article 3.4 and the Adaptation Fund aim at implementation of either mitigation or adaptation technologies or policies. It is necessary to promote synergy in planning and implementation of forestry mitigation and adaptation projects to derive maximum benefit to the global environment as well as local communities or economies, for example promoting adaptive forest management (McGinley & Finegan, 2003). However, recent analyses not specifically focused on the Forestry sector point out that it may be difficult to enhance synergies. This is due to the different actors involved in mitigation and adaptation, competitive use of funds, and the fact that in many cases both activities take place at different implementation levels (Tol, 2006). It should also be taken into account that activities to address mitigation and adaptation in the forestry sector are planned and implemented locally.

It is likely that adaptation practices will be easier to implement in forest plantations than in natural forests. Several adaptation strategies or practices can be used in the forest sector, including changes in land use choice (Kabat et al., 2005), management intensity, hardwood/softwood species mix, timber growth and harvesting patterns within and between regions, changes in rotation periods, salvaging dead timber, shifting to species more productive under the new climatic conditions, landscape planning to minimize fire and insect damage, and to provide connectivity, and adjusting to altered wood size and quality (Spittlehouse and Stewart, 2003). A primary aim of adaptive management is to reduce as many ancillary stresses on the forest resource as possible. Maintaining widely dispersed and viable populations of individual species minimizes the probability that localized catastrophic events will cause extinction (Fischlin et al., 2007). While regrowth of trees due to effective protection will lead to carbon sequestration, adaptive management of protected areas also leads to conservation of biodiversity and reduced vulnerability to climate change. For example, ecological corridors create opportunities for migration of flora and fauna, which facilitates adaptation to changing climate.

Adaptation practices could be incorporated synergistically in most mitigation projects in the forest sector. However, in some cases, mitigation strategies could also have adverse implications for watersheds in arid and semi-arid regions (UK FRP, 2005) and biodiversity (Caparros and Jacquemont, 2003). To achieve an optimum link between adaptation and mitigation activities, it is necessary to clearly define who does the activity, where and what are the activities for each case. Several principles can be defined (Murdiyarso et al., 2005): prioritizing mitigation activities that help to reduce pressure on natural resources, including vulnerability to climate change as a risk to be analysed in mitigation activities; and prioritizing mitigation activities that enhance local adaptive capacity, and promoting sustainable livelihoods of local populations.

Considering adaptation to climate change during the planning and implementation of CDM projects in forestry may also reduce risks, although the cost of monitoring performance may become very complex (Murdiyarso et al., 2005). Adaptation and mitigation linkages and vulnerability of mitigation options to climate change are summarized in Table 9.8, which presents four types of mitigation actions.

Table 9.8: Adaptation and mitigation matrix

Mitigation option Vulnerability of the mitigation option to climate change Adaptation options Implications for GHG emissions due to adaptation 
A. Increasing or maintaining the forest area 
Reducing deforestation and forest degradation  

Vulnerable to changes in rainfall, higher temperatures (native forest dieback, pest attack, fire and, droughts)


Fire and pest management.

Protected area management

Linking corridors of protected areas


No or marginal implications for GHG emissions, positive if the effect of perturbations induced by climate change can be reduced

Afforestation / Reforestation 

Vulnerable to changes in rainfall, and higher temperatures (increase of forest fires, pests, dieback due to drought)


Species mix at different scales.

Fire and pest management.

Increase biodiversity in plantations by multi-species plantations.

Introduction of irrigation and fertilisation.

Soil conservation


No or marginal implications for GHG emissions, positive if the effect of perturbations induced by climate change can be reduced.

May lead to increase in emissions from soils or use of machinery and fertilizer.

B. Changing forest management: increasing carbon density at plot and landscape level 
Forest management in plantations  Vulnerable to changes in rainfall, and higher temperatures (i.e. managed forest dieback due to pest or droughts) 

Pest and forest fire management.

Adjust rotation periods.

Species mix at different scales


Marginal implications on GHGs.

May lead to increase in emissions from soils or use of machinery or fertilizer use

Forest management in native forest Vulnerable to changes in rainfall, and higher temperatures (i.e. managed forest dieback due to pest, or droughts) 

Pest and fire management

Species mix at different scales


No or marginal

C. Substitution of energy intensive materials 

Increasing substitution of fossil energy intensive products by wood products


Stocks in products not vulnerable to climate change



No implications in GHGs emissions

D. Bioenergy 

Bioenergy production from forestry


An intensively managed plantation from where biomass feedstock comes is vulnerable to pests, drought and fire occurrence, but the activity of substitution is not.


Suitable selection of species to cope with changing climate. Pest and fire management


No implications for GHG emissions except from fertilizer or machinery use


Reducing deforestation is the dominant mitigation option for tropical regions (Section 9.4). Adaptive practices may be complex. Forest conservation is a critical strategy to promote sustainable development due to its importance for biodiversity conservation, watershed protection and promotion of livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in existing natural forest (IPCC, 2002).

Afforestation and reforestation are the dominant mitigation options in specific regions (e.g., Europe). Currently, afforestation and reforestation are included under Article 3.3 and in Articles 6 and 12 (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. Plantations consisting of multiple species may be an attractive adaptation option as they are more resilient, or less vulnerable, to climate change. The latter as a result of different tolerance to climate change characteristic of each plantation species, different migration abilities, and differential effectiveness of invading species (IPCC, 2002).

Agro-forestry provides an example of a set of innovative practices designed to enhance overall productivity, to increase carbon sequestration, and that can also strengthen the system’s ability to cope with adverse impacts of changing climate conditions. Agro-forestry management systems offer important opportunities creating synergies between actions undertaken for mitigation and for adaptation (Verchot et al., 2006). The area suitable for agro-forestry is estimated to be 585-1215 Mha with a technical mitigation potential of 1.1 to 2.2 PgC in terrestrial ecosystems over the next 50 years (Albrecht and Kandji, 2003). Agro-forestry can also help to decrease pressure on natural forests and promote soil conservation, and provide ecological services to livestock.

Bioenergy. Bioenergy plantations are likely to be intensively managed to produce the maximum biomass per unit area. To ensure sustainable supply of biomass feedstock and to reduce vulnerability to climate change, the practices mentioned above for afforestation and reforestation projects need to be explored such as changes in rotation periods, salvage of dead timber, shift to species more productive under the new climatic conditions, mixed species forestry, mosaics of different species and ages, and fire protection measures.

Adaptation and mitigation synergy and sustainable development

The need for integration of mitigation and adaptation strategies to promote sustainable development is presented in Klein et al. (2007). The analysis has shown the complementarity or synergy between many of the adaptation options and mitigation (Dang et al., 2003). Promotion of synergy between mitigation and adaptation will also advance sustainable development, since mitigation activities could contribute to reducing the vulnerability of natural ecosystems and socio-economic systems (Ravindranath, 2007). Currently, there are very few ongoing studies on the interaction between mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development (Wilbanks, 2003; Dang et al., 2003). Quantification of synergy is necessary to convince the investors or policy makers (Dang et al., 2003).

The possibility of incorporating adaptation practices into mitigation projects to reduce vulnerability needs to be explored. Particularly, Kyoto Protocol activities under Article 3.3, 3.4 and 12 provide an opportunity to incorporate adaptation practices. Thus, guidelines may be necessary for promoting synergy in mitigation as well as adaptation programmes and projects of the existing UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms as well as emerging mechanisms. Integrating adaptation practices in such mitigation projects would maximize the utility of the investment flow and contribute to enhancing the institutional capacity to cope with risks associated with climate change (Dang et. al., 2003).