Boreal Forests Store Carbon, Need Help: Canada Study
Author: David Ljunggren
The Alaska Highway is surrounded by boreal forest running north towards Whitehorse, Yukon in this file photo taken June 21, 2007.
Photo: Andy Clark/Files
Boreal forests, found in northern areas like Canada, Russia, Scandinavia and parts of the United States, cover 11 percent of the earth and store 22 percent of all carbon on the land surface in soil, permafrost, peatlands and wetlands.
"Action is needed to conserve a region that contains 'The carbon the world forgot'," said the 36-page report from the Canadian Boreal Initiative, an environmental group (here).
The report said the 208.1 billion tonnes of carbon estimated to be stored by Canada's boreal forest and peatland was equivalent to 26 years worth of the world's 2006 carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning.
It's not clear if the Canadian government, which walked away from the Kyoto Protocol climate pact, might use the report as a possible way to win concessions in international talks on curbing greenhouse gas emission.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that climate talks in Copenhagen next month should take account the role of the ability of Russia's forests to absorb carbon dioxide when setting climate change targets.
The Canadian report said boreal forests and peatland had a net cooling effect on the climate because they can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground.
But these gases are released when the forests are logged or soils are disturbed, accelerating global warming, it said.
The report complained that the Kyoto climate pact focused almost exclusively on tropical forests, offered no incentives for forest conservation and excluded peatlands.
"Because the boreal forest is the largest terrestrial carbon storehouse on earth, keeping the boreal carbon reservoir in place is essential to avoid accelerating climate change."
The United Nations hopes a major climate meeting in Copenhagen in December will lead to a broader framework to expand or replace Kyoto, whose first phase ends in 2012.
"Any effective and affordable response to climate change should include preserving the world's remaining, carbon-rich old-growth forests," said Steve Kallick, of the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign.
This would require drastic cuts in industrial emissions and a vast increase in the area designated off limits to the kinds of industrial disturbances likely to release more carbon into the atmosphere, the report said.
(Editing by Janet Guttsman)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
Asia Governors Endorse U.N. Forest Carbon Scheme
Author: David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia
A fisherman rows his boat on a peatland river in the Kerumutan protected forest near Teluk Meranti village in Pelalawan, Indonesia's Riau province, November 11, 2009.
In a joint statement after a meeting on the sidelines of an annual gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders, the governors said the scheme, called REDD+, held the promise of boosting livelihoods for local communities, a key step in curbing deforestation.
But fair distribution of wealth was key.
"People in the cities have better education, they are richer but actually they produce carbon poison," said Abang Tambul Hussin, regent of Kapuas Hulu in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province.
"The communities in the forest area have to be more prosperous," he told the meeting, convened by the Asian Development Bank and ecosystems service firm Carbon Conservation.
Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) aims to reward developing countries for saving their forests in return for carbon offsets that they can sell to rich nations.
The United Nations hopes REDD will be part of a broader global climate pact from 2013, ushering in a potentially multi-billion dollar boost to the global carbon market.
REDD+ expands the idea to protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests.
The governors said that the REDD+ "approach offers tremendous promise in creating a new set of incentives for the preservation and sustainable management of forests," and urged world leaders to push the concept at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen next month.
FIRES, ILLEGAL LOGGING
Four of the governors were from Indonesia, including Central and West Kalimantan on Borneo island, South Sumatra and West Papua. Attapeu province in Laos and Albay province in the Philippines also endorsed the scheme, with some of the provinces already starting pilot REDD+ projects.
Indonesia is on the front line of effort to save the world's remaining tropical forests, with deforestation responsible for more than 10 percent of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions.
But the meeting also underscored the challenges facing the scheme that many rich nations support in the hope of offsetting some of their planet-warming emissions at home.
Ensuring the money from forest carbon credits flowed to local communities, awareness of the scheme on the ground, poverty, fighting illegal deforestation and curbing the expansion of palm oil estates were among the key issues facing REDD+, they said.
"It's very important for us that people know exactly that if they take care of the forest they can have also the money," Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang told Reuters.
"The challenge for us is to maintain our forests, especially dealing with fires, illegal logging," but added the threat from illegal logging had eased and that the province would cap palm oil plantation coverage.
"Maybe at the end of this month, about 900,000 hectares. Enough," he said. Central Kalimantan has lost about a third of its forest area and has Borneo's largest peat carbon store.
The governor of West Papua, Abraham Octavianus Atururi, said his province still had 85 percent forest cover but pointed to the region's poverty, population of under one million, limited infrastructure and problems in monitoring illegal land clearing.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved