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