|Climate, Biodiversity, and Forests - Issues and Opportunities Emerging from the Kyoto Protocol (WRI, 1998, 40 pages)|
For more than a decade, the community of nations has engaged in a difficult and crucial debate that has set the framework for international efforts to reduce the risk of climate change into the next century. That debate took a significant new turn in December 1997, when nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to forge a follow-on Protocol to the original 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol marks the first international agreement to place legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries but leaves many issues to be resolved in future negotiations.
One of the most important areas yet to be resolved concerns how much of a role forests and land-use change will play under the Kyoto Protocol. They are both a part of the problem and of the solution of climate change. Saving or increasing forest cover, particularly of old-growth forests, stores carbon, thus keeping it out of the atmosphere and slowing global warming. Conversely, the global loss of forests plays a significant role in increasing the risks of climate change. Forest conversion has contributed an estimated 30 percent of the atmospheric buildup in carbon dioxide.1
This report focuses on the ways in which forests and land-use change can both exacerbate and mitigate climate change. It identifies the opportunities the Protocol presents regarding the conservation, improved management, and restoration of forests and considers some of the reasons the issue has
proven controversial. Finally, the paper highlights key future decisions that will determine whether these opportunities are seized and examines how these decisions can be made to work for climate, forests, and biodiversity.