Livestock in Acre, Brazil. The climate-smart agriculture and forestry are also important for improving livelihoods, strengthen resilience and reduce emissions. Kate Evans Photography / CIFOR.
Full text By Peter Holmgren. Originally posted in CIFOR Blog.
More than 120 heads of state and tens of thousands of people gathered in New York last September to draw the world’s attention on the deteriorating state of our climate and the increasingly urgent need to take action.
Forests, of course, are and will be a priority item on the agenda as part of the negotiations, discussion and finding solutions. But advocate for their inclusion in climate agreements without having a broader view of their implications, undermines efforts.
Without forests, climate change would be even more serious than it already is. Forests and trees regulate climate and water in landscapes around our planet. Protect soils and nutrition are both sources and renewable energy to hundreds of millions of people. Without these services, our food systems would be extremely vulnerable; the poor, in particular, would lack basic supplies for survival. Forests also serve as protection against the effects of the huge emissions from the use of fossil fuels. If we are to survive, we need forest.
Forests also play a key role in mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience, but we must be careful not to focus exclusively on forests and forestry in the search for solutions.
Our mature and regenerating forests have been storing 4 to 6 gigatons of carbon per year from the 1990s, which means that more than a third of fossil fuel emissions released into the atmosphere during the past 20 years have been absorbed our forests. Do not forget that forests store twice as much carbon than the entire atmosphere, a vital buffer against the adverse effects of current human behavior.
We can benefit even more from the photosynthesis of forests to counteract the effects of fossil fuel emissions. The Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC on mitigation of climate change suggests that we should look for more active forest management forms. Science recommends us to make more efficient use of wood and fiber, while maintaining the ability to capture this huge engine activated by the sun. Photosynthesis forest provides a benefit in combating the effects of fossil fuel emissions and this benefit should not be ignored or underestimated.
And despite everything, we still degraded forests or converting cropland. These activities not only significantly reduce the amount of carbon storage, but also the provision of essential ecosystem services to people. The REDD+ initiative is designed to address these problems in both policy and governance issues, and technical implementation.
Obviously, forests also play a key role in mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience, but we must be careful not to focus exclusively on forests and forestry in the search for solutions.
Let us be clear that it is impossible to separate the adaptation and mitigation in the areas of land use. The same biological processes that dampen CO2 levels in the atmosphere also provide livelihoods, health and food security and strengthen resilience to climate change impacts.
It is true that there will always be trade-offs and we must be aware of them. Addressing the issue of land use separately could lead to a situation where mitigation efforts undermine adaptation efforts, and vice versa.
Therefore, we must accept that forestry and agriculture, together, are an important part of the solution to the climate problem.
As we move towards the COP of Paris, it is essential to see this connection in the context of the intended framework agreement that could allow actions at different levels and scales.
CIFOR and all the research centers of the CGIAR take seriously the challenge of climate change. In fact, for all CGIAR climate change is one of the issues that will define our mission for the next decade, as demonstrated in the Dialogues CGIAR Development last September in New York.
The climate-smart agriculture is high on our agenda, as an expression of our recognition that we must embrace the complexities of soil if we want to improve livelihoods, and strengthen resilience, while reducing emissions.
The climate-smart agriculture and landscapes approach basically share the same ideas in their approach to multiple objectives and multiple stakeholders, and each is broadcast and agree to this logic. By contrast, advocate for individual topics, it may have been useful for awareness and political action, but it may be less successful in providing concrete solutions for the world.
The very complexity simultaneously working to improve livelihoods, increase resilience and reduce emissions is also inherent to REDD +, with its need to negotiate safeguards. In the years since it was first introduced in the climate negotiations UN REDD + mechanism has evolved and matured. In the technical and governance levels, we are ready to increase our efforts. What we need now is the political will, especially in the richer countries to help implement the financial system.
Hopefully the Green Climate Fund will provide the impetus to move forward with REDD +, the governments of the developed world to step forward and contribute capital to the fund, and that innovations in different jurisdictional levels continue emerging and working.
The Climate Summit UN This was an opportunity for concrete commitments to the Green Climate Fund, to continue the work on REDD+, and to climate-smart agriculture and landscapes-both approach needed to meet the challenges broadly.
But also, and perhaps more importantly time, the Climate Summit UN strengthened political commitment and the spirit of cooperation, so that we can reach an agreement in Paris next year for the benefit of man and the world.