Climate Change is one of the greatest challenges currently facing humankind. Increased severity and occurrence of natural disasters, changing weather patterns, retreating glaciers, polar ice melt, sea level rise and drought are just some of the consequences already being experienced by populations around the world.
Efforts to address climate change tend to focus on mitigation – reducing known causes like greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere – and adaptation – reducing the impact of climate change.
Climate change has dual, and sometimes conflicting, implications for forests.
Forests act as barriers in extreme weather events, preventing topsoil run-off in heavy rains and protecting people, animals and physical infrastructure from the effects of strong winds. Similarly, wood and biomass from forests for energy and other purposes can substitute for other more greenhouse-gas intensive products.
However, just as forests have a positive role to play in efforts to combat climate change, forests are highly vulnerable to climate and changing climate conditions.
The climate at a given location determines the type of forest – boreal or tropical rainforest, for example – that can become established. Likewise, when climate conditions change, forests must adapt. However, the timeframe required for the adaptation process is usually far longer than the timescale allowed by changing climate conditions.
As a result of changing climate conditions, forests’ ability to adapt is compromised resulting in a loss of forest biodiversity and forests themselves, and along with them forests’ ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate.
PEFC Certification & Climate Change
Sustainable forest management can contribute towards preserving forests and forest biodiversity thereby strengthening their resilience and enabling them adapt to and mitigate for climate change impacts.
According to a recent FAO report, sustainable forest management is key to maintaining the forest carbon stock, and obtaining PEFC Sustainable Forest Management certification, forest owners and managers can contribute to combating climate change.
PEFC forest certification provides assurances that the forest resources are maintained or enhanced, ensuring that they can act as a sink, capturing and storing carbon dioxide.
PEFC certification also provides assurances that wood and non-wood products have been sourced from sustainably managed sources. Using sustainably-sourced wood to substitute for other more carbon-intensive sources of energy, or to substitute for carbon-intensive building materials such as steel or cement, contributes towards lowering carbon footprints. This in turn reduces damage to the forest, thereby allowing it to play a role in combating climate change.
Maintaining healthy forests will make them more resilient to climate change and allow them to continue to support the lives of the 1.6 billion + people that directly depend on them. Healthy forests will also be able to act as barriers to some of the impacts of the most serious climate change impacts – flooding, hurricane-force winds – affecting populations, thereby helping to protect many vulnerable populations.