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close this bookClimate, Biodiversity, and Forests - Issues and Opportunities Emerging from the Kyoto Protocol (WRI, 1998, 40 pages)
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View the documentAcknowledgments
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Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsGeneric Issues Associated with Forests and Land-Use Change in The Kyoto Protocol
Open this folder and view contentsThe Treatment of Forests and Land-Use Change in Industrialized Countries
Open this folder and view contentsThe Role of Forests and Land-Use Change in Developing Countries
Open this folder and view contentsTechnical Concerns Associated with Measuring and Verifying Forest and Land-Use Change Emissions and Reductions
View the documentRecommendations
View the documentGlossary
View the documentNotes


Two next steps emerge that will help ensure that decisions taken by the Conference of the Parties lead to the best possible environmental outcome. First, the impact of forest and land-use practices on climate and biodiversity are often linked positively and negatively, so policy decisions should take each into account. Second, the Protocol's institutions, rules, and guidelines should be developed with wide participation of stakeholders from fields such as forestry, ecology, rural and agricultural development, and conservation. As the IPCC and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) undertake the research agenda relating to climate, land-use change, and forests, the expertise of the conservation and development communities should be tapped in terms of trends, measurements, and viable climate mitigation projects and policies.

The period for meeting Protocol commitments begins in ten years (2008), "demonstrable progress" must be shown in seven (2005), and credits from the Clean Development Mechanism may begin to accrue in two years (2000). The Protocol requires much substantive input between each of these milestones. We recommend the following actions.

Identify and exploit synergies between efforts to halt climate change and promote environmental stewardship, recognizing that responsible forest and land-use policies result in climate benefits.

Projects and policies should be coordinated among the Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention to Combat Desertification, with international forest processes. Coordinating international environmental efforts under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Climate Change, the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Forest Principles, and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, among other international forest processes, can help capture social and environmental benefits while slowing global warming. (See Box 4.)

The approaches of the three conventions and global forest processes are similar in that they call for capacity building and creating financing mechanisms to capture and promote non-market social and environmental values. Each stresses the importance of maintaining the productivity of genetic, agricultural, and forest resources while sustaining human development. Clearly, the implementation of these agreements should be better coordinated, as this will enhance their impact.

· Lenders and development agencies, such as the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank, should assign a high priority to those projects that allow countries to meet both climate and biodiversity convention objectives.

· The technical advisory bodies for the climate and biodiversity conventions should meet to compare research agendas and identify gaps and opportunities for coordination. For example, adopting a common definition for deforestation would be one avenue for beginning coordination.

Overlapping areas of high value to climate, biodiversity, or development should be identified and given a high priority. Ecosystems under threat offer double dividends for climate and biodiversity. Projects, activities, and policies that benefit climate, biodiversity, and human society should be identified and made a high priority, as should improvements in management practices that accomplish more than one goal. For example, removing riparian areas from agricultural production and reforesting them offers climate benefits and improves water quality and wildlife habitats.

The energy and forest sectors also intersect in some cases to offer climate, biodiversity, and social benefits. For example, a low-emission in-situ hydropower project may depend on forested riparian areas to avoid siltation. Also, introducing improved cookstoves can reduce fuelwood demand, resulting in less forest degradation. These synergies should be sought out and exploited, as they tend to magnify the impacts of individual efforts.

· Nongovernmental organizations and national governments should identify threatened forest areas of high value with respect to biodiversity, human culture, or ecosystem services that may become candidate CDM projects or protected areas in Annex I countries.

· Nongovernmental organizations and development agencies should explore including carbon sequestration as part of the bundle of environmental services under integrated financing instruments for ecological stewardship, such as the biodiversity trust funds being explored for Guyana and Central America. Such funds serve as mechanisms that support the healthy development of ecosystems, often by combining protected areas with sustainable use. Incorporating carbon sequestration among the values supported by these funds could offer them an important additional source of income, thus increasing their effectiveness. The funds will be administered and implemented by groups with multiple objectives, such as biodiversity and social benefits, which will have a greater stake in the project's success. 84 # #

Annex I countries should reform national forest and land-use policies to ensure that they do not contradict the goals of the Kyoto Protocol, but further them. The Kyoto Protocol has given Annex I countries more reason than ever to provide incentives for the improved management of private and public lands. Just as abolishing fossil fuel subsidies is an efficient means of reducing emissions, so is ending subsidies that encourage logging on marginal timberlands and forest conversion to low-productivity agriculture or pasture.

· Annex I policy-makers should reverse ill-advised policies that result in poor management and carbon emissions, such as subsidized harvest on public lands.

· Annex I policy-makers should offer incentives that result in biodiversity and climate gains, such as encouraging restoration of areas high in ecosystem services and discouraging deforestation of old growth or primary forests on public and private lands.

Ensure that accounting methods, mitigation frameworks, definitions, and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol help meet climate, development, and environmental objectives.

Nations should ratify and implement the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to slow human-caused climate change. Rapid, human-caused climate change is likely to result in biodiversity loss by altering regional precipitation and temperatures that will affect the range and species composition of ecosystems, perhaps more rapidly than they are able to adapt.85 Boreal forests and permafrost may be particularly vulnerable to shifting weather patterns.

· Annex I countries should ratify the Protocol and implement policies that will reduce the risk of dangerous climate change such as those described in the Protocol: enhance energy efficiency, protect and restore forests, promote and develop renewable energy, and phase out subsidies of greenhouse gas emitting sectors.

If the Conference of Parties determines that additional land-use change and forest activities warrant inventorying in Annex I countries, they should be phased in under a project-based accounting method. Some additional activities, among them forest harvest and degradation, may prove to be an important source of emissions, especially in countries such as Russia, where new areas are being opened for logging. This delay will also allow time for improving national-level monitoring of biomass changes and exploiting synergies with forest certification systems such as that of the Forest Stewardship Council. A system of this nature will require the development of social and environmental criteria, such as disallowing afforestation on biologically unique lands to avoid perverse environmental outcomes.

· Convention bodies should explore requiring inventories of emissions from additional activities, then, as appropriate, phasing them in on a project-level basis during the first commitment period; this is to avoid upsetting expectations on the meaning of the greenhouse gas targets. Phasing in activities will create incentives to manage more appropriately forest resources and allow time to develop the necessary monitoring systems for inventorying emissions during the second commitment period.

Emissions from land-use change and forests should be included in Annex A of the Kyoto Protocol, which lists sources that must be inventoried by industrialized countries. The most comprehensive solution is to count all carbon dioxide sources, both energy and non-energy. Deforestation, degradation, and land-use conversion, such as from forests or grasslands to agriculture, should be counted as emissions. Human-caused land-use emissions are no different than those from driving or electricity generation-all release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

· Convention bodies should explore inventorying of a wide array of land-use change and forest greenhouse gas sources, such as those from forest harvest and management.

Deforestation should be defined appropriately, fully counted, and avoided where possible. Deforestation is a major source of both carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. Because of these two factors, it is critical that the Protocol create incentives to avoid deforestation in both developing and developed countries.

· Parties should review existing and accepted definitions of deforestation from the scientific community, such as the FAO definition described earlier in this report. Deforestation should not be narrowly defined so as to create a loophole that allows Annex I countries to avoid inventorying emissions from forest conversion by contending that deforestation has occurred only if a structure, such as a building, replaces the forest.

· Parties should not create an incentive to clear land during the interim period from 1990 to 2008 by giving credit for reforestation during the 2008 to 2012 commitment period but not inventorying deforestation between 1990 and 2008. To avoid this incentive, Parties should stipulate that credit for reforestation may only be given for land that was not forested in the 1990 base year.84

· If strict monitoring and verification guidelines and systems are developed, avoided deforestation should be considered for inclusion under the CDM.

Build the Clean Development Mechanism from the ground up, with involvement from a full range of nations and interest groups. Though this recommendation appears obvious, it bears repeating that Joint Implementation and its pilot phase faced opposition from developing countries in large part because each was seen solely as a tool of developed countries. This same fate could befall the CDM. The issues and questions relating to the Clean Development Mechanism are too complex for a comprehensive set of recommendations to be made in this paper. The Clean Development Mechanism must be constructed with input from a diverse and representative group of countries, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

· To ensure that a broad array of stakeholders and perspectives is represented at decision-making fora, UN agencies, multilateral institutions, and development agencies should support representation of NGOs that may lack the resources to participate. In particular, they should support participation from developing country government and nongovernmental representatives that have expertise in forest and land-use change. In addition, such agencies should sponsor representatives at various workshops and decision-making fora concerning the CDM in particular.

Non-Annex I and Annex I countries should establish minimum performance standards for land-use change and forest-based domestic reductions and projects under the market-based mechanisms. Ideally, it would be possible to draw up a set of required national policy reforms in addition to minimum performance standards. However, such a process would be highly contentious. Alternatively, both Annex I and non-Annex I countries could establish a set of minimum performance standards for projects.

· Convention bodies should delineate a set of minimum standards and practices for eligible CDM projects. Only greenhouse gas improvements over this reference would be creditable.

· Convention bodies should also delineate minimum standards and practices, at least equal to or above existing domestic laws governing land use for project-based efforts pursued by Annex I countries. Any emission reduction credit must go beyond these performance standards.

Parties should implement project and policy guidelines that avoid merely displacing the drivers of land-use change and carbon emissions, referred to as leakage. Leakage, described earlier, is the loss of estimated carbon benefits, typically due to the displacing of carbon emitting activities, rather than substituting for carbon emitting activities.

· If climate mitigation policies or projects result in a reduction in timber output, Annex I countries should find alternative fiber sources through increased recycling, reforesting of abandoned land, or increasing wood-use efficiency If reductions in output result in unmet demand for wood fiber, it will only displace demand onto other wood fiber sources, leading to higher emissions elsewhere.

· The project activities should seek to address and counter the threats leading to land-use change by providing alternative income sources, or substitutes for the alternative use of the forest land.

Research remaining issues concerning measurement, patterns of land-use change, and their underlying drivers to understand more fully the difficulties of including land-use change and forests and the implications of not counting them.

Evaluate the Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) Pilot Phase. Currently implemented mitigation projects should be reviewed for their climate impacts, uncertainties, issues, and benefits. Lessons from the AIJ pilot phase should inform the creation of the Clean Development Mechanism. The pilot phase will yield lessons regarding transaction costs, institutional structures and barriers, and standard setting.

· The Convention bodies should arrange for an independent project and institutional evaluation of the AIJ pilot phase before finalizing work on the CDM.

· Countries with established joint implementation pilot programs, such as the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and the United States, should also formally evaluate them. For example, the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation, one of the most active programs, stipulated that the program would be evaluated and assessed "within two years of its inception," which was 1993, or within six months of adoption of international criteria for Joint Implementation by the parties under the Climate Convention.87 The evaluation has yet to occur. Given the developments under the Kyoto Protocol, an evaluation of the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation would be a useful input to the process of building the CDM.

Those with knowledge of and technical expertise in land-use change and forest trends should participate more widely in climate change fora. The IPCC Special Report on key forest and land-use change issues is to be completed in mid-2000. The IPCC Special Report will investigate the implications of defining terms, explore including inventories of additional land-use activities, and assess project eligibility under the market mechanisms. The upcoming Conference of the Parties and string of advisory meetings (see Box 8) offer opportunities for input from additional experts and interested parties. Additional advisory meetings, workshops, and conferences will be convened.88 Wider participation and a higher profile can only help further the goals of the climate convention.

· Nongovernmental organizations and governmental agencies working on climate change should highlight the issues and opportunities in other fora, such as the Convention on Biodiversity and international forest meetings, thus increasing the number of individuals and institutions engaged in climate change policy

· Lenders and development agencies should support greater involvement from developing country governmental and nongovernmental groups in decision-making meetings to the FCCC.

· National governments should ensure their delegations to the Conference of the Parties include participants with relevant forest-related expertise.

Establish a monitoring and inventory system that identifies changes in land cover and intensity of use. A monitoring system that combines remote sensing with ground truthing is essential both to properly inventory carbon fluxes from Annex I country forest and land-use change sectors and to monitor and verify projects under the Clean Development Mechanism, if such projects are deemed eligible. Such a system will also be invaluable to governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and local communities as they seek to make informed decisions about the highest and best use of forest resources.

· National governments and international agencies, with established data gathering agencies, should begin to channel data into the greenhouse gas reporting systems and make it widely available. One example would be the Food and Agriculture Organization, which publishes every two years the State of the World's Forests report, giving an overview of the status of the world's forests.

· International and national-level policy makers should put increased resources into monitoring forest and land-use trends.

· Nongovernmental organizations tracking trends in forest conversion and intensity of use should channel that information into the climate processes.


Paige Brown is a research analyst in the Climate, Energy and Pollution Program of the World Resources Institute. Her work focuses on the role of forests in climate change mitigation.


1990 Baseline year for calculating emissions.

1998 November-Fourth Conference of the Parties for the FCCC meets in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2000 Certified emissions reductions in non-Annex I countries may be credited under the Clean Development Mechanism.

2000 IPCC scheduled to complete a Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry and Carbon Emissions.

2001 Third Assessment Report due from the IPCC. The Report will describe the state of scientific understanding on the impacts and status of climate change and address the role of land-use change and the forest sector in mitigating, slowing, or contributing to climate change.

2005 Annex I countries should have made "demonstrable progress" in meeting commitments.

2008-2012 Compliance period during which reduction targets must be reached.