Forests sustain the livelihoods of more than a billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide and provide gainful employment for over 100 million people. At the same time, these forests provide habitat to over 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and help protect watersheds that are crucial for the supply of clean water to most of humanity.In fact, forests have four major roles in climate change: they currently contribute about one-sixth of global carbon emissions when cleared, overused or degraded; they react sensitively to a changing climate; when managed sustainably, they produce woodfuels as viable alternatives to fossil fuels as well as non-wood products for quick income generation; while having the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions projected for the first half of the 21st century into their biomass, soils and products and store them – in principle in perpetuity.However, developing countries are facing enormous climate change challenges because of wanton destruction of an already fragile ecosystems through:
- Over exploitation from commercial logging and household fuel demand.
- Forest and soil degradation from expansion of agricultural land.
- Destruction of the natural habitat of species, including of bees that are critical for pollination and food production.
Eco Relief’s role in addressing this situation is to support countries to raise awareness, strengthen technical capacity and create enabling policy environments. These three routes converge into two key measures of mitigation and adaptation as the absolute response to a changing climate; mitigation seeking to address its causes and adaptation aiming to reduce its impacts.1. Mitigation: In the forest sector, mitigation strategies comprise reducing emissions from deforestation; cutting emissions from forest degradation; increasing the role of forests as carbon sinks; promoting product substitution, such as using wood instead of fossil fuels for energy and using forest products in place of materials whose manufacture involves high greenhouse gas emissions.2. Adaptation: In the forest sector, adaptation encompasses interventions to decrease the vulnerability of forests and forest-dependent people to climate change.These two response measures constitute a sustainable forest management approach that aims to maintain and enhance the socio-economic and environmental values of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations. Deploying sustainable forest management lessens the risks posed by climate change, while guaranteeing opportunities – such as employment in forest restoration, forest conservation, wood production and wood-based manufacturing; and payments for forest-related services.As we encourage sustainable forest management and optimise its role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, we repeatedly see the need for policy changed, strategies and practices. Any delay in making such changes by governments in their national mitigation and adaptation policies will only increase their intervention costs and while undermining the life changing opportunities and externalities.