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

9.6.3 Policies to improve forest management

Industrialized countries generally have sufficient resources to implement policy changes in public forests. However, the fact that these forests are already managed to relatively high standards may limit possibilities for increasing sequestration through changed management practices (e.g., by changing species mix, lengthening rotations, reducing harvest damage and or accelerating replanting rates). There may be possibilities to reduce harvest rates to increase carbon storage however, for example, by reducing harvest rates and/or harvest damage.

Governments typically have less authority to regulate land use on private lands, and so have relied upon providing incentives to maintain forest cover, or to improve management. These incentives can take the form of tax credits, subsidies, cost sharing, contracts, technical assistance, and environmental service payments. In the United States, for example, several government programmes promote the establishment, retention, and improved management of forest cover on private lands, often of marginal agricultural quality (Box 9.4; Gaddis et al., 1995).

The lack of robust institutional and regulatory frameworks, trained personnel, and secure land tenure has constrained the effectiveness of forest management in many developing countries (Tacconi et al., 2003; Box 9.5). Africa, for example, had about 649 million forested hectares as of 2000 (FAO, 2001). Of this, only 5.5 million ha (0.8%) had long-term management plans, and only 0.9 million ha (0.1%) were certified to sound forestry standards. Thus far, efforts to improve logging practices in developing countries have met with limited success. For example, reduced-impact logging (RIL) techniques would increase carbon storage over traditional logging, but have not been widely adopted by logging companies, even when they lead to cost savings (Holmes et al., 2002). Nevertheless, there are several examples where large investments in building technical and institutional capacity have dramatically improved forestry practices (Dourojeanni, 1999).

Box 9.4: Non-climate forest policies as an element of carbon management in the United States

Many programmes in the United States support the establishment, retention, and improved management of forest cover on private lands. These entail contracts and subsidies to private landowners to improve or change land-use management practices. USDA also provides technical information, research services, cost sharing and other financial incentives to improve land management practices, including foresting marginal agricultural lands, and improving the management of existing of forests. Examples include the Conservation Reserve Program; Forestry Incentives Program, and Partners for Wildlife; (Richards et al., 2006). For example, in the 20-year period between 1974 and 1994, the Forestry Incentives Program spent 200 US$ million to fund 1.34 million hectares of tree planting; 0.58 million hectares of stand improvement; and 11 million hectares of site preparation for natural regeneration (Gaddis et al., 1995).

Richards et al. (2006) suggest that substantial gains in carbon sequestration and storage could be achieved by increasing the resources and scope of these programmes and through new results-based programmes, which would reward landowners based on the actual carbon they sequester or store.

Box 9.5: Non-climate forest policies as an element of carbon management in Africa

Forest and land use policies across African countries have historically passed through two types of governance: Under traditional systems controlled by families, traditional leaders and communities, decisions regarding land allocation, redistribution and protection were the responsibility of local leaders. Most land and resources were under relatively sustainable management by nomadic or agro-pastoralist communities who developed systems to cope with vulnerable conditions. Agriculture was typically limited to shifting cultivation, with forest and range resources managed for multiple benefits.

Under central government systems, land-use policies are sectoral-focused, with strong governance in the agricultural sector. Agriculture expansion policies typically dominate land use at the expense of forestry and rangeland management. This has greatly influenced present day forest and range policies and practices and resulted in vast land degradation (IUCN, 2002; 2004).The adoption of centralized land management policies and legislation system has often brought previously community-oriented land management systems into national frameworks, largely without the consent and involvement of local communities. Central control is reflected in large protected areas, with entry of local communities prevented.

Presently, contradiction and conflicts in land-use practices between sectors and communities is common. Negotiations demanding decentralization and equity in resource distribution may lead to changes in land tenure systems in which communities and official organizations will increasingly agree to collaboration and joint management in which civil societies participate. Parastatal institutions, established in some countries, formulate and implement policies and legislation that coordinate between sectors and to encourage community participation in land and resource management.

Land tenure categories characteristically include private holdings (5–25% of national area), communal land (usually small percentage) and state lands (the majority of the land under government control). Each faces many problems generated by conflicting rights of use and legislation that gives greater government control on types of resource use even under conditions of private ownership. Land control system and land allocation policy adopted by central governments often have negative impacts on land and tree tenure. Local communities are not encouraged to plant, conserve and manage trees on government owned land that farmers use on lease systems. Even large-scale farmers who are allocated large areas for cultivation, abandon the land and leave it as bare when it becomes non-productive. Forest lands reserved and registered under community ownership are communally managed on the basis of stakeholder system and shared benefits.

Evidence from many case studies in Sudan suggests that integrated forest management where communities have access rights to forest lands and are involved in management, is a key factor favouring the restoration of forest carbon stocks (IUCN, 2004). These projects provide examples of a collaborative system for the rehabilitation and use of the forest land property based on defined and acceptable criteria for land cultivation by the local people and for renewal of the forest crop.

Policies aimed at liberalizing trade in forest products have mixed impacts on forest management practices. Trade liberalization in forest products can enhance competition and can make improved forest management practices more economically attractive in mature markets (Clarke, 2000). But, in the relatively immature markets of many developing countries, liberalization may act to magnify the effects of policy and market failures (Sizer et al., 1999).

The recent FAO forest assessment conservatively estimates that insects, disease and fire annually impact 3.2% of the forests in reporting countries (FAO, 2005). Policies that successfully increase the forest protection against natural disturbance agents may reduce net emissions from forest lands (Richards et al., 2006). In industrialized countries, a history of fire suppression and a lack of thinning treatments have created high fuel loads in many public forests, such that when fires do occur, they release large quantities of carbon (Schelhaas et al., 2003).

A major technical obstacle is designing careful management interventions to reduce fuel loading and to restore landscape heterogeneity to forest structure (USDA Forest Service, 2000). Scaling up their application to large forested areas, such as in Western USA, Northern Canada or Russia, could lead to large gains in the conservation of existing carbon stocks (Sizer et al., 2005). Forest fire prevention and suppression capacities are rudimentary in many developing countries, but trial projects show that with sufficient resources and training, significant reductions in forest fires can be achieved (ITTO, 1999).

Voluntary certification to sustainable forest management standards aims to improve forest management by providing incentives such as increased market access or price premiums to certified producers who meet these standards. Various certification schemes have collectively certified hundreds of millions of hectares in the last decade and certification can result in measurable improvements in management practices (Gullison, 2003). However, voluntary certification efforts to date continue to be challenged in improving the management of forest managers operating at low standards, where the potential for improvement and net emissions reductions are greatest. One possible approach to overcome current barriers in areas with weak forest management practices is to include stepwise or phased approaches to certification (Atyi and Simula, 2002).