The 2021 Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use may turn out to be an empty shell. According to the work of three climate scientists, including one from the LSCE (CEA-CNRS-UVSQ), the terms of stopping forest loss have a major impact on carbon sequestration that may prove very disappointing.
At the last annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), held in Glasgow in November 2021, 141 countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, signed a pledge to halt the loss of forest area by 2030.
A climate scientist from LSCE and his partners point out that a crucial detail seems to have been omitted: will the cancellation of deforestation be gross or net? This distinction is important, they say, because different interpretations of how countries can stop deforestation have completely different effects on future carbon dioxide emissions. Clearly, ending deforestation would be a major step forward for the climate. But if deforestation of carbon-rich primary forests continues, while being offset by new plantations so that the forest area remains stable, it would be inefficient for carbon losses and detrimental to biodiversity."
To better understand the difference between gross and net forest loss, the researchers developed three scenarios that meet the Glasgow Commitment: ending forest area loss by 2030.
Deforestation in signatory countries ends by 2030.
Deforestation is reduced and, in parallel, there is business-as-usual reforestation.
Business-as-usual deforestation continues and there is more reforestation so that the forest area does not decrease.
These three scenarios are consistent with the statement but lead to very different net carbon flows. The first scenario sequesters a significant amount of CO2 by 2050, the 2nd much less and the 3rd fixes almost nothing.
The researchers warn that we will therefore have to observe in the coming years whether the Glasgow Declaration delivers on its promises or whether it is just an empty shell, like the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests that (almost) nobody remembers.
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