Importance of Natural Resources

Climate Smart Forestry

Scientists agree that to tackle climate change
we must urgently reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and replace fossil fuels and
materials. Some now argue that the biggest and fastest
impact can be gained by conserving forests, because they take carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere and store it as carbon. This is important – and the only option
in conservation forests. However, saving all forests only for carbon
storage would be a double-edged sword. Like humans, trees are mortal, and climate
change threatens to increase this mortality. Disturbances like fires, storms and bark beetle
outbreaks have become stronger, more extensive and more damaging. This means more CO2 is released. For example, in Portugal, forest fires alone
can cause CO2 emissions equal to around 10% of the country’s annual emissions. And old and less managed forests are more
likely to suffer from disturbances. If we harvest forests and replant them with seedlings and seeds that are better adapted
to our changing climate, the mitigation power of forests is kept for the future. Also, by selling wood, a forest owner gets
income to fund these measures. The wood that forest owners sell is used for wood products and bioenergy. These help to replace fossil-based raw materials and products whose production is not environmentally friendly. For example, for each ton of wood fibres used
for textiles instead of synthetic fibres, we could get about 3 tons CO2 emissions reduction. Wood-based products can be found in virtually
every European home. They make a positive contribution to climate change mitigation, storing carbon for decades or even centuries. If the EU downsized forest management and
stopped making things from wood, it would make it much harder and slower to get rid
of fossil-based products. Forest products would be made in regions outside
the EU instead, and most likely produced in a less environmentally friendly and more wasteful
way. Global emissions could increase immediately. Climate change mitigation is clearly a top
priority, but it is not the only need we have for forests. Forests also contribute to the globally agreed
17 Sustainable Development Goals. These include sustainable consumption and
production, incomes and jobs, reducing poverty and a healthy environment. Climate Smart Forestry is an approach that
has been developed to achieve all these goals at the same time. It can help to mitigate the EU’s CO2 emissions
up to 20 percent by 2050. Climate Smart Forestry stores carbon in forests
and wood products, replaces fossil-based raw materials and products, and invests in biodiversity
and forest management to make forests more resilient for a changing climate. This is the fastest and most long-lasting
way for forests to contribute to climate change mitigation. At the European Forest Institute, we connect knowledge to action

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