News story | Date: 2008-09-16
Forests and climate change
- Deforestation in tropical countries accounts for about 20% of annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
- There is more carbon stored in the world’s forests than in all remaining oil reserves in the world. Combustion converts carbon into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).
- On average, tropical forests store twice as much carbon per square kilometre as forests in other parts of the world.
- Emissions from deforestation are largely generated by a relatively small group of countries. Eight countries are responsible for 70% of these emissions: Indonesia, Brazil, Cameroon, DR Congo, Ghana, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. Indonesia and Brazil alone account for half of the total: Indonesia for 30% and Brazil for 20%.
- Brazil is the fourth largest CO2 emitter in the world. About three-quarters of its emissions are generated by deforestation.
- A number of studies have pointed to measures to curb deforestation as one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways of mitigating climate change.
The Amazon rain forest
- The Amazon rain forest extends into nine different countries and covers almost seven million square kilometres, which is more than 20 times the size of Norway.
- Brazil has 60% of the Amazon rain forest within its borders, and has 30% of the world’s remaining rain forests.
- More than 20 million people live in the Brazilian part of the Amazon basin.
- The Amazon basin is also home to a large number of indigenous peoples. In the Brazilian part of the Amazon, there are more than 220 different indigenous peoples, who speak 180 different languages. In total, they number about 370 000 people.
- The rain forest also holds a significant proportion of the world’s biodiversity.
- We still know very little about this biodiversity, but investigations so far have revealed at least 40 000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1 300 birds, 378 reptiles (snakes, lizards, etc), more than 400 amphibians (frogs, toads, etc) and about 3 000 different fish species.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon
- Of the original Brazilian rain forest, 15-20% has already been lost.
- Until 2004, there was a negative trend, and deforestation was escalating.
- In March 2004, the Brazilian authorities launched the Plan of Action for Protection and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon.
- As part of its action plan, Brazil has developed one of the world’s most advanced satellite monitoring systems for the rain forest. This has two components:
- DETER, which produces data on deforestation every two weeks. This is used as a warning system for real-time detection of logging, and makes it possible to respond quickly to illegal deforestation. However, DETER can only detect cleared areas that are larger than 25 hectares (0.25 km2).
- PRODES, which can detect cleared areas as small as 6.5 hectares (0.065 km2), but requires much more time for analysis and interpretation. PRODES is used to produce annual estimates of deforestation.
- The estimated deforestation rate dropped from 27 000 km2 in 2003/04 to 19 000 km2 in 2004/05, 14 000 km2 in 2005/06 and 11. 000 km2 in 2006/07 (note that annual deforestation is calculated from August to July).
- For the period August 2007 to July 2008, data from the DETER system indicate a sharp rise in the deforestation rate (almost 70%) compared with the preceding 12-month period.
- Although the DETER system is not suitable for providing precise data on annual deforestation rates, there is reason to believe that deforestation in 2008 will be higher than in 2007. Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc has said that he expects the total for 2008 to be between 12 000 and 15 000 km2.
- All data from Brazil’s rain forest monitoring systems are available on the website of the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research( INPE): www.obt.inpe.br.
The Amazon Fund
In response to the observed rise in deforestation, President Lula has been stepping up his response, and has launched the Plan of Action for Protection and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon for the period 2008–2011.
- The Brazilian authorities will allocate USD 500 million towards the implementation of this plan, but estimate that a further USD 1 billion per year is needed to implement it fully.
- The Amazon Fund, which was created by presidential decree on 1 August this year, is intended as a means of obtaining additional resources towards implementation of the action plan. It can receive donations from countries, individuals and businesses.
- Payments to the Fund are to be linked directly to results, in other words to emission trends. This provides an economic incentive for reducing deforestation:
- Payments to the Fund in a particular year will depend on the difference between emissions from deforestation in the previous year and the reference level.
- The reference level will be the average for the current ten-year calculation period, and will be updated every five years.
- If emissions in a particular year are higher than the reference level, no payment will be made to the Fund in the subsequent year.
- The fund will be managed by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). A steering committee is to be appointed, including representatives of the Amazonian local authorities, ministries of the federal government, the Bank and civil society (environmental NGOs, indigenous peoples, industry, farmers, etc).
- The Fund will provide grants for projects in the following fields:
- management of public forests and protected areas;
- environmental monitoring and control, environmental legislation;
- sustainable forest management;
- economic activities based on sustainable use of the forest;
- surveys of relevant areas (economic and ecological data), land use planning and regulation;
- conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
- restoration of deforested areas.
- Up to 20% of the funding available may be used to develop monitoring and control systems for use in other ecosystems (for example other types of forest) and in other tropical countries.
Norway’s international climate and forest initiative
- The initiative was launched by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during the climate change negotiations in Bali in December 2007.
- It was included in the agreement on Norwegian climate policy reached in the Storting in January 2008.
- Commitments to prevent deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries are not included in the Kyoto Protocol. The Government is working towards the inclusion of such commitments in a new global climate regime for the post-2012 period.
- The Government is prepared to increase its support for efforts to prevent deforestation in developing countries to about NOK three billion a year.
- The project covers all types of forest in developing countries, not just rain forest.
- Its main aims are as follows:
- To bring about rapid, cost-effective and verifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions;
- To work towards the inclusion of emissions from deforestation in a new international climate regime;
- To promote the conservation of biodiversity.
- Background information and information on the status of the project will be made available on the website of the Ministry of the Environment.