Conservation, restoration, and improved management of forests are cost-effective solutions for large-scale reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removal of carbon from the atmosphere and thus help to hold the global temperature increase to well below 2.0°C or 1.5°C above preindustrial 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 (SDGs), such as ending poverty and hunger, ensuring water availability, and reducing disaster risks. However, the first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that countries have communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) often do not make full use of the potential of forest solutions or lack the needed specificity, which could result in missing substantial opportunities to reduce GHG emissions in cost-effective ways.

Key Findings

  • There are significant cost-effective emission reduction opportunities in forest conservation, restoration and improved management.

  • Forest conservation offers large mitigation potential with low costs. Countries can implement policies such as designating protected areas, establishing land tenure for indigenous people or local communities, strengthened forest monitoring and improved law enforcement, or developing REDD+ implementation capacity to conserve forests. Conserving primary forests is especially beneficial, not only for the high climate change mitigation potential, but also for adaptation and sustainable development because of the rich ecosystem services they provide. For example, mangroves and peatland forests are very carbon rich forests and can store more carbon per area than upland forests. Nonetheless, these forests are often given less attention and consequently are often missing in NDCs. Expanding the scope of forest sector targets and policies to mangroves and peatlands, if a country has not done so, can be a key opportunity for enhancement in the sector.

  • Reforestation and afforestation also have large mitigation potential, offering significant carbon removal opportunities. Where land-use demand for food production is high and conversion of lands to forest is not feasible, agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems may provide alternative mitigation opportunities. Carbon stock potentials of trees in croplands and grazing lands are substantial, and they also provide additional adaptation and development benefits locally. Jurisdictional sustainability certification of forest products and agricultural commodities or reformation of subsidy policies can help countries create deforestation-free supply chains.

  • By ramping up those forest-based solutions in combination, countries will find opportunities for further emissions reductions in the NDCs while creating adaptation and development benefits.

Executive Summary

Full executive summary available in the paper.