Nav: Home

Forests to play major role in meeting Paris climate targets

February 27, 2017

Forests are set to play a major role in meeting the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement - however, accurately monitoring progress toward the "below 2°C" target requires a consistent approach to measuring the impact of forests on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In a paper published in the journal, Nature Climate Change: Key role of forests in meeting climate targets but science needed for credible mitigation, scientists are calling for robust, transparent and credible data to track the real mitigation potential of forests.

Dr Joanna House from the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute is a co-author of the paper:

"There is no doubt forests have enormous potential to mitigate against climate change, primarily through reducing deforestation, planting new forests and managing existing forests.

"Forests play a major role in in the pledges made by countries towards meeting the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, meeting up to a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions reductions up to 2030. This is a huge contribution considering they only contribute 10 per cent of emissions, while fossil fuels contribute 90 per cent."

In December 2015, 195 countries adopted the Paris Climate Agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As part of the process, 187 countries - representing more than 96% of global net emissions - submitted their Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs), which form the basis for implementing mitigation actions under the climate agreement. The INDCs pledged ahead of the Paris meeting only limit global average temperatures to around 3.5 degrees C, not "well below" 2 degrees as required in the Paris Agreement.

"Most countries include the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector in their INDCs, with a clear focus on forests. However, countries use different ways of calculating the land sector emissions reductions it in their national targets. Consequently, evaluating the expected effect of the land sector on the INDC mitigation targets is very complex," said Dr House.

The EU's Joint Research Centre and a team of international collaborators, led by Dr Giacomo Grassi and including Dr House, carried out the first and most thorough quantification and interpretation of country mitigation plans in the LULUCF sector. Using information and data reported by countries under the UNFCCC process, backed up with country data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, they compared it with independent estimates in the scientific literature.

"Comparing the overall mitigation contribution of the land sector to all other sectors such as energy, we found that globally it contributes to about 25% of the total INDC emissions reduction.

"The INDC commitments still fall short of meeting the Paris targets, and despite the role of forests, there will need to be further drastic reductions in fossil fuel emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change," says Dr House.

"Climate impacts are already being felt throughout the world as 2014, 2015 and 2016 were each consecutively the warmest years on record. Forests play an important role, not least because of the co-benefits of biodiversity, rainfall recycling, and protection from flooding and erosion. However our land resource is limited, so there is no getting away from the need to also switch to low carbon energy as many countries are doing with great success while their economies continue to flourish."

"Tracking the mitigation potential of forests requires more confidence in numbers, including reconciling estimates between country reports and scientific studies. However, the credibility of land-based mitigation may be hampered by large uncertainties in the way countries consider mitigation and their GHG estimates. National GHG inventories must be improved in terms of transparency, accuracy (including information on uncertainties), consistency, completeness and comparability, especially in developing countries," said lead author, Giacomo Grassi from the EU's Joint Research Centre.

"There is also an urgency to reconcile the currently relevant differences between the GHG estimates provided in the country reports and those based on scientific assessments. Progress toward achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement will be based on both country reports and scientific assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Without speaking a common language, conflicting numbers may undermine confidence in reaching targets, and progress toward the "below 2°C" target cannot be properly assessed," said Dr House.
-end-
Paper:

'Key role of forests in meeting climate targets but science needed for credible mitigation,' by G. Grassi, J. House et al., in Nature Climate Change.

University of Bristol

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...