Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation: No hope without forests.

The latest Environmental Audit Committee report, published 29th June 2009, has concluded that failure to halt deforestation will lead to greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere exceeding safe levels, even if industrial emissions are reduced to zero.

The report highlights clearly the economic, environmental and development case for immediate action on deforestation. It states that “globally we must find a more sustainable way to use land that encompasses agriculture, forestry, development, biodiversity and climate change.” Giving credence to carbon mitigation projects that go beyond standard ‘offsetting’ requirements.

The report incorporates UK Met Office research, which advises that present day GHG concentrations would be higher were it not for tropical forests acting as a ‘sink’ for carbon. Tropical forests have soaked-up around 10 per cent of the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution.

Previous independent research has concluded that deforestation and degradation contributes to around 18% of global GHG emissions. This latest report puts the threat of deforestation on a par with lowering emissions from energy use and transportation. A failure to act on deforestation could double the cost of avoiding dangerous climate change to 2030.

Importantly, the report states that with any system associated with deforestation, it is vital that the “protection of biodiversity and local communities should be a precondition of a country being eligible for forest payments.”

This report strengthens the current thinking on the significance of reforestation and its significant role in climate change. Momentum is building on the inclusion of reforestation projects within any agreement achieved in Copenhagen later this year.

The importance of reforestation is placed on a par with energy use and transportation and highlights the impact of ill managed approach to forestry. The report also raises the importance of projects including biodiversity and social elements along side carbon mitigation.

What does this mean for organisations looking to invest in forestry relates carbon-offsetting programmes? It means that such projects have significant backing from world leading government departments. With many organisations looking to maximize the marketing potential of their carbon mitigation strategy, the credibility of using these types of carbon credits increases all the time. It’s also something that will separate them from their competition as the qualities of the carbon credits have a strong narrative attached. However, it’s key that any organisation looking to use this report to add credibility to their strategy heeds the key point on biodiversity and social benefits.

About the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee
The Environmental Audit Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to consider to what extent the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development; to audit their performance against such targets as may be set for them by Her Majesty’s Ministers; and to report thereon to the House.

Full report available at:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmenvaud/30/30.pdf