Forest Cover, Primary Forests and climate debt

Forest Cover, Primary Forests and climate debt

The national data of Forest Cover and Primary Forest are both included in the calculations of Climate Contributions (debt) in ClimatePositions. Primary Forest was included as an indicator in the worksheet in August 2014. The following describes selected findings on forests from FAO’s ‘The Global Forest Resources Assessments (FRA), 2010’ (main report, pdf, 378 pages). The Assessment is based on two primary sources of data: 1) ‘country reports’ and 2) remote sensing conducted by FAO and partners.

Forest Cover is defined as forest land spanning more than 5,000 m² (0.5 hectares) with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds – it does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use. Globally the Forest Cover is 31% of the land area on the planet (planted forest accounts for 7% of forests). In ClimatePositions the change in national Forest Cover (as a percentage of the land area) since 1990, affects the level of allowable CO2 Emissions per capita and thus the Climate Contribution (climate debt). See the calculation examples in the table below.

Primary Forest is defined as naturally regenerated forest of native species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed. The Primary Forests is about 36% of the global Forest Cover, or 11% of the land area. According to the Assessment 81 out of 200 countries have reported that they have no Primary Forests left but in some cases, this may be due to a lack of data¹ rather than a complete lack of Primary Forest. Primary Forests are often equated with high levels of biological diversity, but this is not always the case². Nevertheless, the size of the area of Primary Forest is an important indicator of the state of forest ecosystems. In ClimatePositions the changes in national Primary Forests (as a percentage of the land area) since 2000 (or the first available data year) affects the level of allowable CO2 Emissions per capita and thus the Climate Contribution (climate debt). Primary Forest counts twice compared with Forest Cover per km² in the calculation. See the examples with the 20 countries with the largest Forest Cover in the three tables below.

The 20 countries in the tables contain around 81% of the global Forest Cover and 89% of the Primary Forests in 2010. Note that 20th Myanmar has been excluded from the list because of missing data in ClimatePositions. The three tables show A) The Forest Cover in percent of the land area in 1990 and 2010, and what this change means for the Climate Contribution (climate debt) in percent of the total amount, B) The Primary Forests in percent of the land area in 2000 (or 2005) and 2010, and what this change means for the Climate Contribution (climate debt) in percent of the total amount, and C) The total updated Climate Contribution (climate debt), the included amount caused by the changes in both categories of forests and the forest-caused percentage of the total Climate Contribution. More after the tables…

—————————————————————————————–

A) The 20 countries Forest Forest Percent of
. with the largest area Cover Cover climate debt
. of forests in 1990 1990 2010 due to change
. . . . .
1. Russia 49.4% 49.4% 0.0%
2. Brazil 69.0% 62.4% 27.3%
3. Canada 34.1% 34.1% 0.0%
4. United States 32.3% 33.2% -2.5%
5. Dem. Rep. Congo 70.7% 68.0% Free
6. China 16.7% 21.9% -5.8%
7. Australia 20.1% 19.4% 1.1%
8. Indonesia 65.4% 52.1% 58.2%
9. Sudan (former) 32.1% 29.4% Free
10. Mexico 36.2% 33.3% 10.3%
11. India 21.5% 23.0% Free
12. Peru 54.8% 53.1% Free
13. Colombia 56.3% 54.5% Free
14. Bolivia 57.9% 52.7% 54.1%
15. Angola 48.9% 46.9% 14.3%
16. Venezuela 59.0% 52.5% 18.0%
17. Zambia 71.0% 66.5% Free
18. Mozambique 55.2% 49.6% Free
19. Tanzania 46.8% 37.7% Free
20. Sweden 66.5% 68.7% -13.0%

—————————————————————————————–

B) The 20 countries Primary Primary Percent of
. with the largest area Forest Forest climate debt
. of forests in 1990 2000 2010 due to change
. . . . .
1. Russia 15.1% 15.0% 0.3%
2. Brazil 58.9% 56.0% 12.3%
3. Canada 16.6% 16.6% 0.0%
4. United States 7.6% 7.8% -0.7%
5. Dem. Rep. Congo no data¹ no data¹ Free
6. China 1.2% 1.2% 0.0%
7. Australia 0.7%³ 0.7% 0.0%
8. Indonesia 25.9% 24.8% 4.7%
9. Sudan (former) 5.6% 5.6% Free
10. Mexico 18.1% 17.5% 2.1%
11. India 4.8% 4.8% Free
12. Peru 48.4% 46.8% Free
13. Colombia 7.6% 7.5% Free
14. Bolivia 35.5% 33.8% 17.8%
15. Angola 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
16. Venezuela no data¹ no data¹ 0.0%
17. Zambia 0.0% 0.0% Free
18. Mozambique 0.0% 0.0% Free
19. Tanzania 0.0% 0.0% Free
20. Sweden 4.9% 4.90% 0.0%

—————————————————————————————–

C) The 20 countries Climate debt Climate debt Percent
. with the largest area total in millions due to change due to change
. of forests in 1990 (updated) in forests in forests
. . . . .
1. Russia $147,165 $447 0.3%
2. Brazil $24,133 $9,545 39.6%
3. Canada $151,666 $0 0.0%
4. United States $1,649,604 -$52,230 -3.2%
5. Dem. Rep. Congo Free $0 0.0%
6. China $444,947 -$25,717 -5.8%
7. Australia $131,802 $1,491 1.1%
8. Indonesia $11,992 $7,545 62.9%
9. Sudan (former) Free $0 0.0%
10. Mexico $29,167 $3,626 12.4%
11. India Free $0 0.0%
12. Peru Free $0 0.0%
13. Colombia Free $0 0.0%
14. Bolivia $130 $94 72.0%
15. Angola $300 $43 14.3%
16. Venezuela $14,892 $2,686 18.0%
17. Zambia Free $0 0.0%
18. Mozambique Free $0 0.0%
19. Tanzania Free $0 0.0%
20. Sweden $8,269 -$1,077 -13.0%

—————————————————————————————–

The eight Contribution Free countries among the twenty would be obvious beneficiaries for forest projects financed by a Global Climate Fund if the countries causing the destruction of the climate paid their climate debt (see the ranking ‘here’). Climate change is expected to affect forests’ susceptibility to disturbances such as fires, droughts, landslides, species invasions, insect and disease outbreaks, and events such as hurricanes, windstorms and ice storms. Interactions between different disturbances make the prediction of future impacts of climate change on forests more difficult.

At the global level the Forest Cover decreased by more than 3 percent between 1990 and 2010 and the Primary Forest decreased by 4 percent between 2000 and 2010. It is worth noting that that wood removals valued just over $100 billion annually in the period 2003–2007 and the value of non-wood product removals (mainly food products) amounted to about $19 billion in 2005. However, the average total public expenditure on forestry was about 40% larger than the collected forest revenue.

NB. Note that Primary Forest has not yet been included as an indicator in the rankings in the menu “Contributions”.

Hypothetical example no 1: If Brazil had maintained the Forest Cover since 1990 and the Primary Forests since 2000,  then the present saving in Climate Contribution (climate debt) would have been $9.5 billion or 39.6% of the accumulated climate debt.

Hypothetical example no 2: If the United States had maintained the Forest Cover since 1990 and the Primary Forests since 2000,  then the additional cost in Climate Contribution (climate debt) would have been $52.2 billion or 2.5% of the accumulated climate debt.

 ¹ The actual area with Primary Forests is probably slightly higher since information was missing for many of the smaller islands and territories, as well as for countries such as Cameroon and the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (two of the largest countries in the Congo Basin, the second largest expanse of tropical forest) and for Venezuela.

² In the boreal zones (high northern latitudes) and the arid tropics, can be poor in terms of numbers of plant and animal species, while some modified natural forests and forests interspersed with agricultural areas may provide additional habitats and thus harbor more species.

³ Data of Primary Forest in Australia is from 2005.

 

Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FAO) (every five years): http://www.fao.org/forestry/fra/fra2010/en/
Country reports: http://www.fao.org/forestry/fra/67090/en/
United Nations Statistics Division (forest area): http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/SeriesDetail.aspx?srid=567
State of the World’s Forests 2014 (FAO): http://www.fao.org/forestry/sofo/en/
Forests and carbon capture (Sicirec): http://www.sicirec.org/definitions/carbon-capture
Drawing by Claus Andersen 2014.

Comments are closed.