If nature was a techno-fix
It has been internationally recognized that there is quite simply no path to below 2°C without the help of nature.
We need trees, and not just for all the products they provide: trees also clean our air and water, provide crucial habitat, and capture and store carbon on a global scale.
In fact, research tells us that forests could contribute up to one-third of the solution to tackling climate change; forests are even written into the Paris Climate Agreement. Yet forests and land use attract orders of magnitude less funding and attention than the energy sector.
If forests, wetlands and soils were a techno-fix for climate change, made from concrete and steel, billions of dollars would be flowing towards this solution from governments and Silicon Valley alike.
So how do we start to achieve this growth? One sector where this is possible is the forestry sector itself. With the right environmental and social safeguards in place, the sector offers potential for both economic growth and carbon mitigation.
Today, the forestry sector already employs 13.7 million people around the world and it directly contributes $120 billion to global GDP. Emerging economic analysis tells us that there is potential to grow that number by 50 percent in the next 10 to 15 years. As environmentalists, we should be supporting that, so long as high sustainability standards are met, such as provisions to avoid reforesting on native grasslands.
So, how do we build a vast carbon store by creating more demand for wood? It’s about creating the right kind of incentives for the right kind of wood. Our research also shows that forests well-managed for timber can often store as much carbon as unmanaged forests.
Extracting timber from a well-managed forest does result of course result in immediate carbon loss—but that forest is able to grow back.
And, the sustainable supply of timber provides a sustainable supply of jobs and revenue that can deter the threat of conversion to other land uses.