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Climate, biodiversity, and forests

Issues and opportunities emerging from the Kyoto Protocol

Examines why the role of forests and land-use change under the Kyoto Protocol remains controversial. Notes that climate change is a major threat to biodiversity and that protecting biological diversity may help mitigate other impacts of climate change.

Executive Summary

Over the past 150 years, deforestation has contributed an estimated 30 percent of the atmospheric build-up of CO2. It is also a significant driving force behind the loss of genes, species, and critical ecosystem services. However, in the international policy arena, biodiversity loss and climate change have often moved in wholly unconnected domains.

While the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is a key towards the mitigation of climate change, it leaves many questions unanswered, including the role of forests and land-use change in meeting obligations to slow global warming.

Climate, biodiversity, and forests: Issues and opportunities emerging from the Kyoto Protocol examines why, with so much at stake, the role of forests and land-use change under the Kyoto Protocol remains controversial.

The report focuses on the need for strong international commitments and concerted action, and encourages the following actions:

  • Identify and exploit synergies between efforts to halt climate change and promote environmental stewardship. Coordinate projects and policies among the international conventions on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification with international forest agreements. Prioritize the conservation of ecosystems under threat that offer high climate and biodiversity benefits, such as preserving old-growth forests. Prioritize policy reforms that result in climate and biodiversity benefits, such as abolishing subsidies for conversion of forests to low-productivity agriculture.
  • Ensure that accounting methods, mitigation frameworks, definitions, and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol help meet climate, development, and environmental objectives. Ratify and implement the Kyoto Protocol. Fully count and avoid deforestation where possible. Build the Clean Development Mechanism from the ground up, with involvement from a full range of nations and interest groups.
  • Research issues concerning measurement, patterns of land use change and their underlying drivers. Increase communication among forest and development experts and stakeholders and climate policy-makers. Ensure these experts and stakeholders contribute to the IPCC Special Report on Forests, Land-Use Change and Carbon. Establish a monitoring and inventory system that identifies changes in land cover and use.

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