Local Control and Technology Help Forests Against Climate Change
When most people think about climate change, the first thing that comes to mind is the burning of fossil fuels for energy or transport. Rarely are forests considered. But they must be. The deal struck at the Paris climate change summit (COP 21) in December 2015 confirmed this. Forests and forestry, long a side note to larger conversations about reduction of emissions from energy supply and use, were topics of increased focus and discussion.
The reason is clear: If the world is going to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the focus cannot solely be on fossil fuels. We must also reduce emissions from the land sector—above all by stemming deforestation. Globally, the Center for International Forestry Research estimates that forests absorb 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. This is about one-third of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels. At the same time, deforestation and land-use change accounts for nearly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions—more than the world’s entire transport sector.
The importance of forests in climate change mitigation strategies is particularly clear in Latin America and the Caribbean, where approximately 46% of land is covered by forests, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Forests in this region act as important carbon sinks, sequestering 440 million tons of CO2 equivalents. And conversion of forests to other uses was the main source of greenhouse gas emissions between 2001 and 2010 in the region, averaging 1.9 billion tons of CO2 equivalents.