Use of forests as a climate action

Forests play an important role in the battle against climate change. The use of land as a climate action can be an important contribution to emission reduction.

The 2019 UN Special Report on Climate Change and Land shows that land use plays a vital role in the climate system. The use of land contributes to emissions, but also uptake of CO2. Land provides the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being, including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity.

Land is both a source and a sink of greenhouse gases and plays a key role in the exchange of energy, water and aerosols between the land surface and atmosphere. Land ecosystems and biodiversity are vulnerable to ongoing climate change. Sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change, on ecosystems and societies.

In the area of forestry, deforestation is a threat to both climate and biodiversity. Changes in forest cover, for example from planting and replanting trees and permanently removing forests, directly affect regional surface temperature.

Some land-related actions are already being taken that contribute to climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development. Planting forests in new areas, reduced deforestation and increased use of bioenergy are central among these. Depending on population growth and technology development, the report shows that forest cover must change by between -2 and 12 million km.

However, if bioenergy crops and forests are cultivated in new areas to a large extent, this can put pressure on the land, leading to reduced food security and water shortages. On the other hand, climate measures can be implemented in ways that do not compete with the land area, such as reduced crop losses and food waste, greater efficiency in food production, dieting, forestry and increasing the carbon content in soil.

The black carbon from oil, coal and gas for energy production must be replaced by sustainable alternatives such as water, wind and forests. Transitioning from a fossil-based society to a renewable society also means that the world will need all the wood that can be harvested within a sustainable framework from the world’s forests.

Deforestation must be substantially reduced, and forests must be planted in new areas. The CO2 uptake in existing forest areas needs to increase through means such as better planting and more sustainable forestry. Sustainable use of the forest is a trump card in the fight against climate change.

Norway’s forestry industry has high sustainability standards with a large proportion of certified wood. For every tree that is harvested, two new ones are planted. Today, Norway has three times as much forest as it did a hundred years ago.

Every year, Norwegian forests, which have been meticulously monitored since the 1920s by the Land Resource survey, grow by 15 million cubic meters. As long as forests are managed in a sustainable way, including measures for maintaining biodiversity, the world sits on a huge, everlasting resource.