The forest and land-use sector (excluding agriculture) is responsible for approximately 10 percent of global net GHG emissions. However, nature-based solutions such as forest conservation, restoration and improved forest management can transform the sector from a net source of emissions to a net sink. Moreover, the protection and enhancement of forest ecosystem services can provide local communities with a range of benefits for climate change adaptation and sustainable development.

View working paper

Why the Forest and Land-use Sector Matters

Conservation, restoration, and improved management of forests are cost-effective solutions for large-scale reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and removal of carbon from the atmosphere and thus will play a critical role in helping to hold the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees C or 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. In addition to their climate change mitigation potential, forest conservation, restoration, and management also help countries and communities adapt to climate change. For example, forest products provide livelihoods to millions, mangroves protect coastal lands against rising seas and tidal surges, while inland forests moderate temperature fluctuations and stabilize water supply. Forest sector solutions for climate also contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals such as ending poverty and hunger, ensuring water availability, and reducing disaster risks.

Opportunities within the Forest and Land-use Sector

There are significant cost-effective emission reduction and removal opportunities in the forest and land-use sector that can simultaneously provide climate mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development benefits. Key opportunities include:

Reducing deforestation and forest degradation, particularly conserving primary forest, offers significant low-cost mitigation opportunities along with jobs, increased food security and other benefits
Reforestation and restoration offer the biggest GHG mitigation potential in the sector with up to 10 GtCO2e per year globally by 2030.
Mangroves and peatland forests are carbon-rich forests capable of storing 2-3 times more carbon per area than upland forests, but so far have attracted less attention in NDCs than upland forests.

Ways to Enhance Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the Forest and Land-use Sector

The forest and land-use sector also has a key role to play in responding to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis while helping countries build back better. Ecosystem services worldwide are valued at an estimated $125 trillion annually, supporting over a billion people in tourism, farming, fishing, and forestry industries worldwide. As COVID-19 recovery takes shape, there are a number of forest and land-use sector actions countries can implement that will boost economies, improve rural livelihoods, bolster climate resilience and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Read: NDC Enhancement and COVID-19 Recovery: Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future

Countries can strengthen or add:

  • Economywide GHG targets reflecting more ambitious abatement options in the forest and land-use sector.
  • Ambitious GHG targets for the forest and land-use sector, such as tons of CO2e net emissions reduction from the sector relative to the base year.
  • Forest-related targets from other international processes (e.g. the Bonn Challenge or New York
  • Declaration on Forests) or domestic policies.
  • Expanded scope of non-GHG targets to include additional forest types (e.g., mangroves and peatlands), types of solutions (e.g., agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems) and/or geographical areas.
  • Non-GHG targets addressing the forestland-use sector, such as:
    • Total area under legal protection, sustainable forest management or forest certification.
    • Targets for increasing protection and improving conservation for primary forests.
    • Targets for increasing ecosystem restoration with a focus on reconnecting areas of primary forests.
    • Total area of mangroves or peatland forests protected or restored.
    • Targets to increase area with secured land tenure for indigenous people or local communities.
  • Policies and actions for the forest and land-use sector focusing on improved forest governance and community forest management.

Countries can link COVID recovery to stronger climate action:

covid recovery ndcs forests.png


Forest and Land-use Sector in First Round NDCs

Major forest-sector solutions with significant emission reduction potential, such as reforestation, forest conservation, and afforestation, were commonly found in the countries’ first round of NDCs. Wetland forests (e.g. mangroves) and peatland forests, despite their larger carbon storage capacity per unit area, attract much less attention than upland forests. 

forest land use sector first round ndcs.png