Carbon emissions from forests down by 25% between 2001-2015

Better forest management and slowdown in deforestation contribute to emission reduction
FAO 20 Mar 15;

20 March 2015, Rome - Total carbon emissions from forests decreased by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2015, mainly due to a slowdown in global deforestation rates, according to new estimates published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today.

Global emissions from deforestation dropped from 3.9 to 2.9 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year over the period of 2001-2015. Deforestation is defined as a land-use change, from forest to other land uses.

"It is encouraging to see that net deforestation is decreasing and that some countries in all regions are showing impressive progress. Among others, they include Brazil, Chile, China, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Uruguay, and Viet Nam," said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva. "I urge all those countries to share their successful experiences with other countries. Through South-South Cooperation programme, FAO is ready to facilitate this collaboration and knowledge exchange."

FAO emphasized at the same time that despite the overall reduction in carbon emissions from forests linked to less deforestation, emissions from forest degradation have significantly increased between 1990 and 2015, from 0.4 to 1.0 Gt CO2 per year. Forest degradation is a reduction in tree biomass density from human or natural causes such as logging, fire, windthrows and other events.

FAO published these figures for the first time on the occasion of the International Day of Forests, celebrated on 21 March 2015. The data are excerpts from a larger FAO study based on the FAOSTAT Emissions database and FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 (FRA), which will be launched in September 2015 as one of the highlights of the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban. This will be the first time this global event is organized in Africa, under the auspices of the Government of South Africa, with more than 5,000 participants expected.

Managing forests sustainably to address the impacts of climate change

A more sustainable management of forests will result in a reduction in carbon emissions from forests and has a vital role to play in addressing the impacts of climate change, the FAO Director-General stressed.

"Forests are critical to the Earth's carbon balance and hold about three-quarters as much carbon as is in the whole atmosphere. Deforestation and forest degradation increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but forest and tree growth absorbs carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emissions", he said.

Graziano da Silva also highlighted the important role of sustainable agriculture to reduce pressure on forests, along with implementing the UN-REDD programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Imbalances between countries and regions

The absorption of carbon by forests helps to counterbalance, although not entirely, overall emissions due to the conversion of forests to other types of land use. Forests absorb and store an additional two billion tonnes of CO2 per year (2011-2015), excluding emissions from deforestation. Half of the forest carbon sink is related to growth in planted forests.

Developed countries continue to represent the bulk of the overall estimated carbon sink, with a share of 60 percent (2011-2015). This share, however, has decreased from 65 percent (2001-2010), mainly due to a decrease in the establishment of new planted forests.

Developing countries account for the remaining 40 percent of the total carbon sink.

At the regional level, Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean all continued to release more carbon than they absorb, although emissions from Africa and Latin America decreased between 1990 and 2015. Brazil alone represented more than 50 percent of the overall estimated reduction in carbon emissions between 2001and 2015.

The forests of Europe and North America functioned as net carbon sinks between 1990 and 2015 since they absorb more carbon than they release, whereas Oceania did not show a clear trend in forest emissions over the same period.


The FAO analysis is based on national data reported to the agency by countries using ground-based and aerial measurements. They are not directly comparable to measurements using satellite imagery only, which, although useful, do not capture certain types of forests or stages in the growth cycle, and do not easily capture land-use change dynamics.

For example, dry forests in Africa or central Brazil have great spaces between trees and often have few leaves for large parts of the year, making them difficult to capture by remote sensing, and regular harvesting activities in managed forests may be detected as deforestation by satellite surveys.

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World on track to meet ambitious forest restoration goal
IUCN 21 Mar 15;

Bonn, Germany, 21 March, 2015 – New restoration initiatives were announced today by Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa at the second international Bonn Challenge conference on forest landscape restoration taking place in Germany. With these announcements, a total of 59.2 million hectares have now been contributed to the Bonn Challenge – a global movement to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020.

The conference brought together environment ministers and government representatives from China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Liberia, Republic of Korea, Sweden and the US, along with representatives from key donor countries, such as Germany and Norway, business leaders and nature conservation organisations.

"We are well on our way to achieving our goal of restoring a total of 150 million hectares of destroyed forests by 2020," says Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. "With the restoration of forests we can pursue multiple objectives simultaneously: We can do something about climate change and species extinction and help restore the livelihoods of millions of people.”

At today’s meeting, El Salvador revealed its plans to launch a Central American partnership for restoration. In Africa, Ethiopia and Liberia announced continued action on the Great Green Wall Initiative, which aims to curb the spread of the Sahara by restoring forests. In Southeast Asia new ideas to extend cooperation between governments and businesses on forest restoration were announced.

“The world is recognising that forest landscape restoration offers a critical contribution to addressing some of our global challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity, food security and economic growth,” says Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN, one of the co-hosts of the event. “The Bonn Challenge is about much more than simply planting trees – it’s about addressing the most pressing issues of our generation, and of future generations.”

The Bonn Challenge was launched in 2011 at an event co-hosted by Germany and IUCN. It was endorsed at the 2014 Climate Summit and supplemented by the New York Declaration on Forests with a goal to restore an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.

According to IUCN, achieving the 150 million hectare challenge could bring more than USD 85 billion per year to local and national economies and USD 6 billion in additional crop yields. Achievement of the goal could also reduce the current CO2 emissions gap by 11 to 17 percent.

A New Climate Economy analysis found that achieving the expanded Bonn Challenge goal of 350 million hectares by 2030 could generate USD170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products, alongside carbon sequestration.

In addition to restoration commitments from countries and organisations, key donors noted today that they would increase their support for global restoration
“We are now at the point where just reducing emissions will not be enough,” says Tine Sundtoft, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment. “We must actively remove carbon out of the atmosphere. Forest restoration is the most cost-effective carbon capture option we have. The New Climate Economy Report from last year showed us that conserving and enhancing the forest can be done. And it can be done while also achieving economic growth.”
Support for restoration is also increasingly coming from private sector sources.

“Restoring millions of hectares of degraded land is one of the great ideas of our times,” says Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO of the World Resources Institute, a co-host of the event. “No wonder, then, that political and financial momentum is building across every continent.”

The Bonn Challenge conference was co-organised by the German Federal Environment Ministry, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Notes to editors

To mark the International Day of Forests (March 21) proclaimed by the United Nations, the Bonn Challenge participants have planted a maple tree together as a symbol of their joint efforts. A photo of the event as well as photos of the conference can be found here: