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

9.6.5 Strengthening the role of forest policies in mitigating climate change

Policies have generally been most successful in changing forestry activities where they are consistent with underlying profitability incentives, or where there is sufficient political will, financial resources and regulatory capacity for effective implementation. Available evidence suggests that policies that seek to alter forestry activities where these conditions do not apply have had limited effectiveness. Additional factors that influence the potential for non-climate policies to reduce net emissions from the forest sector include their ability to (1) provide relatively large net reductions per unit area; (2) be potentially applicable at a large geographic scale; and, (3) have relatively low leakage (Niesten et al., 2002).

By these criteria, promising approaches across both industrialized and developing countries include policies that combat the loss of public forests to natural disturbance agents, and “Payment for Environmental Services” (PES) systems that provide an incentive for the retention of forest cover. In both cases, there are good examples where they have been successfully implemented at small scales, and the impediments to increasing scale are relatively well understood. There is also a successful history of policies to create new forests, and these have led to large on-site reductions in net emissions. Care must be taken, however, to make sure that at plantation creation, there is no displacement of economic or subsistence activities that will lead to forest clearing elsewhere. Policies to increase the substitution of fossil fuels with bioenergy have also had a large positive impact on net emissions. If feedstock is forestry waste, then there is little potential leakage. If new plantations are created for biofuel, then care must be taken to reduce leakage.

Because forestry policies tend not to have climate mitigation as core objective, leakage and other factors that may limit net reductions are generally not considered. This may change as countries begin to integrate climate change mitigation objectives more fully into national forestry policies. Countries where such integration is taking place include Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Peru (Rosenbaum et al., 2004).