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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what assessment her Department has made of the importance of trees and tree planting to achieving carbon capture.
Forests play an important part in mitigating climate change (as well as in adapting to its impacts). Domestically, forestland is a net sink in the UK, removing 17 Mtonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013) and the amount of carbon stored in UK trees increased from 1990-2013. Forestry inventory projections indicate an increasing trend in net removals by UK forests and then a decline towards mid-century as forests mature (in mature forests carbon uptake is reduced) and more trees are harvested. Nonetheless, forests will remain a net sink in the UK, at least beyond the middle of the century.
Forestry policy is devolved, and all four countries have established policies for woodland creation, co-financed through the EU Rural Development Program. The revised UK Forestry Standard, published in November 2011 provides that ‘forest management should contribute to climate change mitigation over the long term through the net capture and storage of carbon in the forest ecosystem and in wood products’. The Committee on Climate Change has estimated that by 2030 an additional 1 megaton of carbon dioxide a year could be abated through afforestation activities.
Internationally, deforestation causes 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reaching the goals of the New York Declaration on Forests – ending forest loss by 2030 and restoring 350 million hectares – is estimated to reduce between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year in 2030. Over 1 billion poor people depend on forests for their livelihoods, they provide essential ecosystem services and support up to 80 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has taken a number of steps to mitigate forests emissions and enhance sequestration. In the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020), all countries with emissions reductions commitments (including the European Union) are required to account for all forest related emissions and removals, and are therefore incentivised to sustainably manage their forests.
For developing countries, the UNFCCC has established ‘REDD+’ as a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and promote the conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks by rewarding countries who protect their forests with a payment based on verified emissions reductions. The UK’s £3.87 billion International Climate Fund supports developing countries address deforestation, including programmes which support REDD+, governance and market reforms, curbing illegal and unsustainable use of forest resources, and investments in sustainable forestry, agriculture and land management.