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Forests to play key role in new global climate change agreement


In the ‘Madrid Ministerial Declaration: 25 years together promoting Sustainable Forest Management in Europe’, signed at the 7th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference (Madrid, 20-21 October 2015), the FOREST EUROPE signatories recognized the vital role of forests in combating climate change, and committed to enhancing the role of forests, sustainable forest management and the use of forest-based products to mitigate climate change.

 

Understanding this crucial role of forests and sustainable forest management is especially relevant now, in the light of the current United Nations negotiations to develop a new, global, legally binding agreement to combat climate change and encourage the transition towards low-carbon societies and economies.  The new agreement, applicable to all Parties and aiming to limit the temperature increase below 2°C by 2100, will be adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11).  This will be held from 30 November to 11 December 2015 in Paris, and the agreement will enter into force in 2020.  Negotiations in Paris will emphasise both the mitigation (that is, the reduction) of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change.  And forests have a key role to play in both.

 

As is shown in the FOREST EUROPE State of Europe’s Forests 2015 report, which was launched at the 7th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference, the total area of forests in Europe has increased to 215 million hectares over the last 25 years and continues to expand.  Progress has also been made on the implementation of sustainable forest management in the European region.  However, the situation is not the same in other regions, and globally, the extent of the world’s forest continues to decline (see Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, FAO).

 

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat presented a new report in Bonn on 18 November.  This report, entitled ‘Climate Action Now – A Summary for Policy Makers 2015’, collects good practice policies, initiatives and actions from across the world that could be replicated in order to help limit global warming to 2°C.  The examples of best practices presented in the report are classified into six thematic areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, carbon capture, use and storage, and non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

 

According to this report, emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use accounted for around 25 per cent of total global greenhouse gases emissions in 2010, or 10–12 Gt CO2 eq per year.  In the case of the forestry sector, it says that the most cost-effective policy options to reduce emissions are related to improved forest management.  These would include activities aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, the conservation of forest carbon stocks, the sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD-plus), as well as afforestation and the restoration and reforestation of degraded lands.

 

The report ‘Climate Action Now – A Summary for Policymakers 2015’ can be downloaded from this link http://climateaction2020.unfccc.int/media/1173/21789-spm-unfccc-lowres.pdf, or be found at the following microsite: http://climateaction2020.unfccc.int/

 

More information on the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is available at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/paris_nov_2015/meeting/8926.php

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