Forests play a prominent role in the new global Climate Agreement
On the evening of 12 December, 195 countries adopted the first ever legally binding global climate agreement at the UNFCCC COP21 climate summit in Paris. The agreement commits countries to keep the temperature increase well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 °C. Furthermore it seeks to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and balance human-caused emissions by sources and removals by sinks in the second half of this century.

CEPF very much welcomes the clear recognition of forests and sustainable forest management in the Paris agreement, as they offer a practical solution to support the achievement of these ambitious and crucial climate targets.

he long-term emission reduction goal explicitly states that sinks and their removals must balance the emissions. The importance of the conservation and enhancement of sinks is mentioned. The emphasis on balancing emissions by sinks can be interpreted as a targeted “net zero emission” or “emission neutrality”.

The agreement even includes a specific article devoted to forests and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). From CEPF’s perspective this is considered as a clear signal, underlining the importance of forests and sustainable forest management in the new global climate strategy. The agreement encourages countries to implement REDD+ to conserve and enhance forest sinks in developing countries. It highlights the importance of adequate and predictable financing for this kind of program, for example though the coordination and mobilisation of public and private funds or multilateral funds, such as the UN Green Climate Fund.

The agreement notes the importance of non-carbon benefits of forests, recognising that forests have multiple other values than just acting as a carbon sink. It also recognises that sustainable management of forests should be supported, as well as alternative policy approaches, such as “joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests”.

The agreement gives a strong signal about the importance of stopping global deforestation and forest degradation as well as the importance of forests sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. The world needs more forests, which are growing and which are sustainably managed. In this context, the enormous climate benefit and potential of substitution also needs to be recognised, where fossil- and energy intensive materials can be replaced with climate friendly and sustainable wood.

This important aspect was highlighted during the summit at various side events, which CEPF attended. For instance, at the EFI ThinkForest event a study was presented showing that the EU could significantly increase the climate benefits from forests through for example active management and afforestation. The study emphasised that the future climate policy should actually not only focus on forests as carbon sinks, but also on the climate benefits via an increased mobilisation and use of wood and wood-based products, including renewable energy. It also shows that there is a correlation between having a large forest sink and the contribution of the forest sector to GDP, underlining that in Europe there is no contradiction between enhancing the forest carbon sink and sequestration and using the forest and wood for economic benefits.

For further information on CEPF’s position on forests, climate and LULUCF, please see CEPF statement below.