4 September 2006, Rome – Most people assume that global warming is caused by burning oil and gas. But in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year – 1.6 billion tonnes – is caused by deforestation.
About 200 experts, mostly from developing countries, met in Rome last week to address this issue in a workshop organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and hosted by FAO. “We are working to solve two of the key environmental issues – deforestation and global warming – at the same time,” said FAO Senior Forestry Officer Dieter Schoene.
Trees are 50 percent carbon. When they are felled or burned, the C02 they store escapes back into the air. According to FAO figures, some 13 million ha of forests worldwide are lost every year, almost entirely in the tropics. Deforestation remains high in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Readiness to act
Delegates of the 46 developing countries present at the Rome workshop signalled their readiness to act on deforestation, 80 percent of which is due to increased farmland to feed growing populations. Part of the solution is to increase agricultural productivity so that there is less demand to convert forests into farmland.
But they also stressed that they needed financial help from the developed world to do the job. A major flow of capital from north to south – under new instruments still waiting to be negotiated -- would be required to help the developing nations conserve their forests.
Such incentives could come in the form of carbon credits as further action under the Kyoto Protocol, which governs greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources in developed countries. It could also come directly under the Climate Change Framework Convention, or from bilateral agreements between donors and developing countries on country-wide forest conservation projects.
Such questions are subject of ongoing international negotiations, which will continue later this year in Nairobi.
The Rome workshop was supported by FAO and the Governments of Italy, Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53762