Boreal forests should be in the climate agreement

Ekaterina Uspenskaya

The Russian Socio-Ecological Union believes that boreal forests must be reflected in the climate agreement along with tropical forests, and they should be given considerable attention, as the largest natural carbon sinks. This was the opinion of participants in the debate, which took place on 14 December Klimaforum - parallel floor of the international climate conference in Copenhagen. They were concerned about the lack of mention of boreal forests both in the IPCC reports, and in the current negotiation process.

Andrey Laletin (environmental movement “Friends of Siberian Forests”, Krasnoyarsk), leading the discussion on December 14, gave the following comment on the importance of inclusion of the boreal forests preservation in the agreements: “First, this is necessary because the forests are very important in terms of biodiversity, retention of water and carbon in the soil and biomass, as well as a source of livelihood for a number of indigenous peoples. Second, there are fears that once the rain forest will be protected by various agreements, forest industry can quickly transfer its interests to the boreal forest. This could lead to its increased degradation, up to partial or complete destruction.”

The illusion that boreal forests can adapt to climate change was disproved by scientists, as it was said in the study made by Air Pollution and Climate Secretariat in cooperation with Taiga Rescue Network(http://rusecounion.ru/ang_boreal23119).

Of the positive steps related to forest, there are proposals by the REDD group on non-replacement of tropical forest by plantations and on forest conservation in the context of rights of indigenous people with consideration for UNDRIP (UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples). These proposals were included in the AWG-LCA document, which should be brought to high (ministerial) segment of the climate conference.

However, a number of problems still remain in forest discussions. One of them is connected with the mechanism for accounting for the role of forests in carbon capture, storage and release. The LULUCF group is currently developing strategies for such accounting.

Climate change threatens boreal forests, because significant changes are observed in them already at the current warming of 0.8 degrees Celsius. At warming up to +3-5 degrees, they can completely degrade. Therefore, it is very important to include boreal forests in the climate agreement, to preserve them for future generations and to maintain the balance of nature in general. This was one of the demands by Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian NGOs Copenhagen Statement, as well as of Russian NGOs Appeal to the President and the Government of Russia in November 2009.