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Forests and Carbon sequestration

  • IASbaba
  • January 10, 2023
  • 0
Environment & Ecology
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Context:

  • Forest is the second largest land use in India next to agriculture
  • In 2021, the total forest and tree cover in India is 80.9 million hectares, which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country, ranging from the Himalayan Temperate to Dry Zone forests.
  • Being a mega-bio diversity country, the nation possesses high level of endemism.

Carbon Sequestration:

  • There are two types:
  • Geologic
  • Biologic
  • Carbon capture from power plants and industrial facilities is called Geologic Carbon sequestration.
  • It is pressurized into liquid and then stored in porous rock formations underground.
  • Atmospheric carbon is captured by natural processes like photosynthesis.
  • It is stored in soil, plants and trees or the entire forest ecosystem.

Role of forests in carbon sequestration:

  • Create carbon pools – Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in different repositories, called carbon pools, which include trees (both living and dead), root systems, undergrowth, the forest floor and soils.
  • Currently existing forests store ~45% of the organic carbon on land in their biomass and soils
  • Live trees have the highest carbon density, followed by soils and the forest floor. Harvested wood products and landfills also store carbon.
  • Prevent Global warming – When a carbon pool decomposes or is burned, it releases carbon as carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere and causes Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
  • In past 40 years, forests have absorbed 25% of human carbon emissions. This slows the rate of climate change.
  • Regulate rate of carbon sequestration and storage – However, invasive insects and diseases, drought, wildfires and urban development can affect this regulation.

Other significant benefits:

  • Purifies air and water – One tree can take 10 pounds of pollution and produce enough oxygen for two people.
  • Flood control – it moderates river run offs and reduces erosion
  • Protection of ecosystem services – resources such as medicinal plants, herbs, timber, Minor forest produce and landscaping materials is found in forests.
  • Prevents desertification – too few trees can increase severity of sun exposure.
  • This can lead to dry soil, dead organisms and more release of carbon

Carbon trading mechanisms:

  • Carbon trading – Carbon trading is the process of buying and selling permits and credits in the market that allow the permit holder to emit carbon dioxide.
  • The right to emit a tonne of CO2 is often referred to as a carbon ‘credit’ or carbon ‘allowance’.
  • Clean development mechanism under Kyoto protocolFinancially-reliant nations offer incentives towards developing countries to put into place projects which reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, while at their own expense, they earn what are called CER credits or Emission Reduction Units that are equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2.
  • European Union’s Emissions Trading System(ETS) – is the key tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), from electricity generation and industry.

Challenges in current system:

  • Additionality
  • It refers to carbon sequestration that can happen even in the absence of targeted action.
  • Forests can grow back on agricultural land abandoned by households moving to industrial jobs. This is known as the Forest Transition.
  • This transition has been underway in India since the mid-90s, with steady net-positive growth.
  • Leakage
  • While protecting one forest, emission generating activities that can be deflected to other neighbouring forests.
  • Counting negative emissions from this forest will be fraudulent.
  • For example, in rural India, the fuelwood has to come from somewhere, and all that changes is that the women have to walk farther, spend more time, and face more harassment but total emissions remain the same.
  • Permanence
  • With climate change, we can expect more heat waves, dry spells, and more frequent and intense forest fires.
  • Example – The Bootleg fire in Oregon burned through 90,000 acres of forest set aside as carbon offsets for Microsoft and BP. This forest, and the carbon it holds, were expected to live for at least 100 years.
  • Cost and logistical challenges and biophysical limitations (e.g., poor water availability constrains growth and increases mortality

Suggestions:

  • To protect and restore, our forests, we must create incentives and build equity for local communities to reap a fair share of benefits.
  • Forests will be protected and restored when communities living near these forests expect to derive direct material benefits.
  • India’s Forest Rights Act 2006 allows communities to own and manage their forests. Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Jharkhand have already recognised this opportunity to create jobs and wealth. But this opportunity requires the private sector to step up and support the process.
  • By engaging directly with communities, the informal forest economy can be transformed into business transactions that are fair and transparent and incentivise sustainable protection, management, and restoration of India’s forests.
  • If communities protect forests because they get better prices for Sal seeds, Mahua flowers, or Tendu leaves, they will protect them from fires as well as any other threats that come along. Carbon sequestration will be a side benefit.
  • The rising demand for forest based products and resultant deforestation and encroachment has led to a severe loss of natural resources and destruction of habitat

Way forward:

  • The Living Planet Report 2006 ranked India as the third highest gross foot print nation, followed by US and China.
  • India is presently 4th largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity and is growing at 8-9 per cent per annum. This fast growth coupled with the needs and aspirations of more than one billion people is a challenge for conservation of forests unless environmentally responsible policies are in place.
  • In this regard, the new initiative apart from cabin sequestration such as Payment for Forest Ecosystem Services (PES), Ecological Footprint Analysis and Forest Certification, must be explored.

Source The hindubusinessline

 

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