Should We Include Avoidance of
Deforestation in the International Response to Climate Change?

Bernhard Schlamadinger, Lorenzo Ciccarese, Michael Dutschke, Philip M. Fearnside, Sandra Brown, Daniel Murdiyarso.

Global deforestation and forest degradation rates have a significant impact on the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere (Achard et al. 2002; Houghton 2003; Fearnside and Laurance 2004). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 2001) estimated that during the 1990s 16.1 million ha per year were affected by deforestation, most of them in the tropics. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated that for the same period the contribution of land-use changes to GHG accumulation into the atmosphere was 1.6+0.8 Giga (1 G = 109) tonnes of carbon per year (Prentice et al. 2001), a quantity that corresponds to 25% of the total annual global emissions of GHGs. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in recognizing climate change as a serious threat, urged countries to take up measures to enhance and conserve ecosystems such as forests that act as reservoirs and sinks of GHGs. The Kyoto Protocol (KP), adopted in 1997, complements the UNFCCC by providing an enforceable agreement with quantitative targets for reducing GHG emissions.

the International Response to Climate Change

To fulfill their emission-limitation commitments under the KP, industrialized countries (listed in the KP’s Annex I) can use land-based activities, such as reducing deforestation, establishing new forests (afforestation and reforestation) and other vegetation types, managing agricultural and forestlands in a way that the “carbon sink” is maximized.
Annex I countries may also claim credit for carbon sequestration in developing countries by afforestation and reforestation (AR) through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the Kyoto mechanisms that allow countries to achieve reductions where it is economically efficient to do so. For the period 2008-12, forestry activities under the CDM have been restricted to afforestation and reforestation on areas that were not forested in 1990. In addition, CDM projects must lead to emission reductions or net carbon uptake additional to what would have occurred without the CDM funding.

the International Response to Climate Change

Annex I Parties can only use credits from AR CDM up to an annual 1% of their base-year emission, or 5% during the entire Kyoto commitment period. In December 2003, the ninth session to the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the UNFCCC took a decision addressing the contentious issue of non-permanence— as well as additionality, leakage, uncertainties, and socioeconomic and environmental impacts—associated with AR project activities under the CDM (UNFCCC 2003). Only expiring carbon credits will be issued from AR CDM projects (“temporary” or “long-term” Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) alternatively), so that credits expire before termination of the project, or when the carbon is released back to the atmosphere prematurely. In both cases, the investor that used the credits to get into compliance will be debited accordingly.

The decision also acknowledges that is up to host Parties to evaluate risks associated with AR projects, such as the use of invasive alien species and genetically modified organisms, according to their national laws. The text of the decision also invites Parties’ submissions on simplified modalities and procedures for small-scale projects and their implementation. In contrast, activities aimed at reversing or slowing deforestation in developing countries are excluded for the first commitment period of the KP (2008-2012). Arguments against allowing deforestation avoidance activities were high uncertainties of GHG-reduction estimates, the potentially large scale of credits, non-permanence, and leakage concerns (Bonnie et al. 2000; Marland et al. 2001).

the International Response to Climate Change the International Response to Climate Change

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Source: Proceedings of Workshop on Carbon Sequestration and Sustainable Livelihoods
Editors :
Daniel Murdiyarso
Hety Herawati

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