Land use goes mainstream at Paris talks

6 December 2015

Most countries at the Paris climate change talks are now including land use in their commitments to reduce emissions.

In a paper delivered at a side event to the talks on 1 December, Paulo Canaveira of the Portuguese Environment Agency said land use is now being treated on an equal footing with the other sectors of their economies.

"This marks a significant political change from the Kyoto Protocol, where the land use sector was mostly treated and considered as ... not a 'real' mitigation sector," he said.

Encouraging land use change is of critical importance to New Zealand's commitments, because planting new forests is one of the main ways we have for buying time while we work out how to decarbonise the rest of the economy. It's also a major policy challenge because farming (which is not currently included in the NZETS) competes for land with forestry which was the first sector to enter the NZETS.

In the paper, Assessing Transparency and Ambition in the Land use and Forestry Sector, Canaveira notes that for many countries forestry and land use will be important contributors to the policies they employ to meet their emissions targets. Indeed, in some cases, especially in developing countries, they will be the main contributors.

The paper was commissioned by the ICFPA (International council of Forest and Paper Associations). The NZFOA is a member of the council.

 "Reducing emissions from deforestation, sustainable forest management, afforestation and reforestation are commonly mentioned as key mitigation policies in the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) and addressed in the policies of many countries," Canaveira says.

In contrast, the potential mitigation benefits arising from the use forest products to replace fossil-fuel derived materials and energy are not explicitly addressed. As Canaveira notes, the potential mitigations from these contributions may be larger than the mitigations arising from planting more forests and managing them better.

Note: NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes is part of the NZ delegation at the Paris climate change talks.

Source: Assessing Transparency and Ambition in the Land use and Forestry Sector