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

Description and assessment of mitigation technologies and practices, options and potentials, costs and sustainability

Terrestrial carbon dynamics are characterized by long periods of small rates of carbon uptake per hectare, interrupted by short periods of rapid and large releases of carbon during disturbances or harvest. While individual stands in a forest may be sources or sinks, the carbon balance of the forest is determined by the sum of the net balance of all stands.

Options available to reduce emissions by sources and/or increase removals by sinks in the forest sector are grouped into four general categories:

  • maintaining or increasing the forest area;
  • maintaining or increasing the site-level carbon density;
  • maintaining or increasing the landscape-level carbon density and
  • increasing off-site carbon stocks in wood products and enhancing product and fuel substitution.

Each mitigation activity has a characteristic time sequence of actions, carbon benefits and costs (Figure TS.22). Relative to a baseline, the largest short-term gains are always achieved through mitigation activities aimed at avoiding emissions (reduced deforestation or degradation, fire protection, slash burning, etc.).

Figure TS.22

Figure TS.22: Generalized summary of the options available in the forest sector and their type and timing of effects on carbon stocks and the timing of costs [Figure 9.4].

All forest-management activities aimed at increasing site-level and landscape-level carbon density are common practices that are technically feasible, but the extent and area over which they can be implemented could be increased considerably. Economic considerations are typically the main constraint, because retaining additional carbon on site delays revenues from harvest.

In the long term, a sustainable forest-management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.

Figure TS.23


Figure TS.23: Comparison of outcomes of economic mitigation potential at <100 US$/tCO2-eq in 2030 in the forestry sector, as based on top-down global models versus the regional modelling results [Figure 9.13].