Forests and climate change – a starter for 10

Ten introductory points on the relationship between forests and climate change

  1. Forests do much more for tackling climate change than just absorbing greenhouse gases. They maintain cloud cover, reflecting sunlight back out of the atmosphere, encouraging evaporation and increasing atmospheric moisture levels, which cools the air1.
  2. The estimated economic value of ecosystem and climatic services provided by tropical forests for mankind is US $3.4 trillion2  – greater than the GDP of Germany in 20103.
  3. The forestry sector is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, surpassed only by energy production and industry4 .
  4. Amazon degradation would raise global temperatures by approximately 0.3 degrees Celsius during the 21st century. If we assume a total global temperature rise of 4.0 degrees Celsius, the Amazon's forest loss alone would account for 8 percent of future global warming5 .
  5. International climate negotiators are looking to include tackling deforestation — particularly in the tropics — in a post-2012 global climate deal. Proposals for doing so have evolved over time and most recently includes taking action to reduce emissions from deforestation, degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+)6.
  6. The role of REDD+ has been recognized in international climate negotiations via the Copenhagen Accord (2009) and the Cancun Agreement (2010) but details of how it will work are yet to be ironed out (though private and pilot projects are already underway). At the Durban UNFCCC climate change conference, starting in November, 2011, further details on technical, funding, monitoring and social safeguard issues are needed for REDD to continue its rapid growth and be effective7. Local forest communities hold the key to the success of REDD+ as they have the most to lose or gain. Their rights must be respected if REDD+ is to work.
  7. In anticipation of a global REDD+ agreement there are still many private companies and NGOs that are moving ahead with REDD+ in the voluntary markets. The estimated total transaction value in the voluntary forest carbon market grew from US $106 million in 2009 to US $178 million in 20108.
  8. The average price for forest carbon offsets across the primary forest carbon market was US $5.5/Tco2e in 20109. This was just a third of the global average carbon price for the first six months of 2010 (US $15.86)10.
  9. Forests do more than just tackle the causes of climate change. They play a vital role in adapting to the impacts of climate change. More than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forest resources for their livelihoods, which become particularly important as a source of nutrition and income in times of climate stress and crop failure11.
  10. Finally, community forestry supplies a framework through which REDD+ and climate adaptation can deliver much needed benefits to forest-dependent communities. It can help ensure that the benefits of REDD+ and climate adaptation reach those whose livelihoods are most dependent on the maintenance of healthy forests and the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forests. To achieve these benefits secure tenure and access rights for communities are needed, alongside decentralized and participatory governance of forest resources12.


1Betts, R (2011). Effects of deforestation on our climate. UK Met Office. Available online: (Last accessed 21st November 2011).
2Braat, L.,and ten Brink, p. et al (eds.) (2008) The Cost of Policy Inaction. The Case of Not Meeting the 2010 Biodiversity Target. Report for the European Commission. Wageningen, Brussels.
3International Monetary Fund, (2010) World Economic Outlook Database, September 2011: Nominal GDP list of countries. Data for the year 2010. Available online:
4Betts, R (2011). Effects of deforestation on our climate. UK Met Office. Available online: (Last accessed 21st November 2011).
5Richard Betts, Michael Sanderson and Stephanie Woodward (2008). Effects of large-scale Amazon forest degradation on climate and air quality through fluxes of carbon dioxide, water, energy, mineral dust and isoprene. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.0027.
6Chalmers, H (2009). Reducing forest emissions: Facts and figures. SciDev Net. Available online: (Last accessed 21st November, 2011)
7Cooney, D (2011). 3 sticking points to tackle on REDD+ in Durban, says facilitator. CIFOR Forests blog November 15th 2011. Available online: (Last accessed 21st November, 2011).
8Ecosystem Marketplace, (2011). State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2011: From canopy to currency.
9Ecosystem Marketplace, (2011). State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2011: From canopy to currency.
10Point Carbon, (2010). Value of global carbon markets up 5% in H1 2010. 7th July 2010. Available online: (Last accessed 22nd November 2011).
11UN-DESA. (2009). Forests: The green and REDD of climate change. Policy Brief No.16.
12RECOFTC, The Forest Governance Learning Group, IIED and REDDnet, (2011). REDD+, Governance, and Community Forestry: Highlights from the Forest Governance Learning Group Asia Experts’ Meeting. Available online:



Forests and Climate Change After Cancun: An Asia-Pacific Perspective

Date: 20 March 2011

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