What are the links between forests and climate?
What role do forests play in decreasing and adapting to climate change? Within a few weeks of launching the international climate change conference, here are three questions and answers to better understand the role of forests in this global fight.
In what way are forests at the center of the issues linked to climate?
Climate change is a phenomenon of rising average temperatures linked to the increase in greenhouse gases, notable carbon dioxide resulting from human activity. Yet, the forests allow to stock atmospheric CO2 in the woods through photosynthesis and also in the soil. By sequestering more than 20% of carbon emissions annually, forests constitute a veritable well of carbon.
Deforestation and forest degradation are also responsible for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is why reducing and stopping these emissions constitutes a major issues in the climate negotiations.
Additionally, forests are and will be more and more seriously impacted by climate change, with potential repercussions on the level of production and economic viability of the businesses involved with forests.
How can forests reduce the effects of climate change?
Acting on the effects of climate changes happens by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by increasing carbon storage.
In this respect, forests play a primordial role in the fight against climate change at different levels:
- Thanks to photosynthesis, threes capture CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it in the form of carbon in living biomass, then in dead biomass, tree litter and soil, in this way truly playing a role in the “carbon pump.” Forests that are managed in a sustainable way help to fight efficiently against the greenhouse effect either by increasing the forest surface by planting trees or by optimizing existing management.
- Wood products of forest origin store carbon throughout their lifetime, prolonging storage on both medium and long terms, notably when they are used in construction.
- Wood products also allow for the substitution of other materials that consume higher amounts of energy or non-renewable combustibles that emit greenhouse gases.
These are what are called the “3 Ss”: sequestration, storage and substitution.
The climate role of the forest and wood industry will be even more important as the products are frequently used in a cascade of other materials.
How are forests involved in the COP21 and the solution agenda?
When it comes to forests, the solution agenda plans for a reduction in deforestation and a restoration of degraded forest by acting particularly in the supply chain of certain raw materials like palm oil, soy beans, beef and paper pulp which are frequently produced to the detriment of forest cover in developing countries.
French forests in numbers
- French forest surface has doubled since 1850 and today covers about 15 million hectares (about 37 million acres) – more than a quarter of French territory. Forests are currently growing by about 40,000 hectares (about 100,000 acres) per year.
- French forests are the largest deciduous forests in Europe and are essentially private (74%), with 3.8 million owner, of which 200,000 possess more than 10 hectares (about 25 acres – representing 68% of the properties). Public forests of the central government (10%) and local governments (16%), are management by the National Forest Office.
- The forest and wood industry employs more than 450,000 people.