Sustainable Forest Management and Climate Change

This analytical paper summarizes major issues relating to climate change and forests. Forests play four major roles in climate change: (1) they contribute about 20% of total global carbon dioxide emissions when cleared, overused or
degraded; (2) forest ecosystems are sensitive to changing climates; (3) when managed sustainably, they can produce fuels with lower emissions than fossil fuels; and (4) they have the potential to absorb significant volumes of carbon in
their biomass and soils and products, and to store carbon for extended periods of time.

The purpose of this paper is to stimulate discussion at TFD’s next Dialogue on Forests and Climate in Bali, Indonesia, by highlighting key issues that relate to the intersection of climate change with forest management and use. Information is presented to help readers and discussion participants identify areas of current and potential contention and conflict. As such, this paper is not an exhaustive study of all aspects of forest carbon. This paper does not summarize the established or emerging science on the effects of climate change on forest dynamics and ecosystems. Rather, it provides an overview of the discussions surrounding the role of forests and forest management as a means of addressing climate change. Whereas this paper seeks to address global forests, the forests with the greatest potential impact lie in developing countries that, in turn, lie in the lower latitudes. As such, the natural focus of this paper is often on those forests that lie in tropical and subtropical zones.

Key subjects of interest include (1) the current treatment of forests in the existing climate change regime and carbon markets; (2) emerging issues surrounding reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD); (3) bioenergy; (4) agroforestry; and (5) competition for forest products, such as timber, non timber forest products (NTFP), and fiber. Broad issues were identified, and an examination was performed as to the effects of each of these issue areas on forest management, climate change, biodiversity, and key stakeholders.