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Inspiring examples of action on land use to curb emissions
 

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (4 – 15 June), governments are looking closely at how land use, including forests and agriculture, can assist in reducing emissions. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the agriculture and forestry sectors play a crucial role in curbing greenhouse gases, as they account for around 24 percent of total emissions.

Governments can only manage what they can measure, and the stringent reporting requirements of the Kyoto Protocol has been an effective tool in the management of forests in industrialized countries as absorbers of carbon. In addition, there are many good voluntary schemes worth highlighting, for example the UK’s Woodland Carbon Code. This is a standard, backed both by the government and the forest industry to independently assess and credit the amount of CO2 the trees planted as part of woodland projects soak up.

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Many ways of fighting climate change through land use are particularly beneficial for developing countries – through agriculture, by planting trees, or by avoiding deforestation in the first place through intelligent incentive schemes. Effectively fighting deforestation in developing countries often requires finance and technological cooperation. For example, sustainable agriculture land management is already paying off for Kenyan farmers as they try to increase yields, reduce soil degradation, adapt to climate change, and help curb emissions at the same time.

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 A Kenyan farmer with her son

This is made possible by the work of investors, research organizations, and NGOs, who in Kenya have been teaming up to help farmers receive additional funding through the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund. The BioCarbon Fund mobilizes finance to help develop projects that sequester or conserve carbon in agro-ecosystems.

Tropical rainforests have a particularly high value for the global effort to combat climate change, as they store large quantities of carbon dioxide. “REDD+”, which stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries” - creates a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD+ also includes the conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Countries ranging from Indonesia to Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are recognizing that REDD+ investments can offer myriad opportunities to boost forest governance and sustainable development, while also enhancing ecosystem services, tackling climate change, improving water security or promoting green jobs.

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Countries with UN-REDD National Programmes and other partner countries

The UN-REDD Programme assists developing countries in preparing and implementing national REDD+ strategies, and builds on the convening power and expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UN agencies frequently work with NGOs to implement REDD+ activities. As part of its REDD+ Programme, Indonesia plans to plant palm oil and other crops on degraded lands rather than clearing virgin forest.

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Another form of successful international cooperation is the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, which contributes to the protection of land, and includes around 40 afforestation projects. For example, the Humbo Ethiopia Assisted Natural Regeneration Project restores indigenous tree species in a mountainous region of South Western Ethiopia, covering 2728 hectares of land. Before the project, the area was almost completely devoid of trees. It now contributes to natural regeneration of degraded lands and complements natural resource management. The project also generates employment and provides supplementary income for the local population. While generating the above sustainable development co-benefits, the project has achieved net GHG removals of 73 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalent up to December 2011.

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Forest in Ethiopia

Speaking of stepped-up international cooperation to fight climate change: It’s worth noting that the first partnership between a developed and a developing country recorded in the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) registry of the UNFCCC is on forests. The pairing is the first of its kind since the UN’s climate body launched the service in October last year. Developing countries can submit their plans to limit their greenhouse gas emissions to this registry, which developed countries are then able to fund. Austria recently agreed to provide almost US$ 2 million to Georgia, which will help the country to restore the forests in its Borjomi-Bakuriani region. This 45,000 hectare area has the potential to store significant volumes of CO2, and will make a significant contribute to Georgia’s efforts to tackle climate change.

 Finally, the UNFCCC secretariat’s Momentum for Change Initiative seeks to celebrate and recognize inspiring examples of action, including those relating to land use. Just one of the projects celebrated by the initiative is in Guatamala, where deforested mountain slopes cause soil erosion and dangerous mudslides. A group of women farmers in Itzapa, Guatemala, have partnered with AIRES (Alianza Internacional de Reforestacion) to learn how to farm with trees, in order to prevent soil erosion, mitigate climate change and improve crop yields and diversity without using dangerous chemicals. The women farmers planted thousands of native trees each year, so far 150,000. These are trees that are growing and sequestering carbon into the future.

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Women in Izapa, Guatamala, working on project celebrated by the UNFCCC secretariat’s “Momentum for Change” initiative