Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

Field Picture from French Guiana recently cleared forest area for agriculture purpose (Cassava)

Recently cleared forest area for agriculture purpose (Cassava), French Guiana, August 2007© Hugh Eva, JRC

Climate change: The importance of being... forest


Negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are examining a major forestry issue relevant for the post-Kyoto agreement:  the Reducing of Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries, also called the REDD mechanism.

Researcher groups at the JRC Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) have been deeply involved in the development of the knowledge base of this potential post-Kyoto mechanism through their activities on Global Forest Resource Monitoring (Action "TREES") and on Greenhouse Gases in Agriculture, Forestry and other Land-Use (Action "GHG-AFOLU") – one of many examples of how science has to break ground for the necessary policies of tomorrow.

20% of man-made greenhouse gas is from deforestation

The future potential REDD mechanism is expected to build on economic incentives for provable reductions of emissions as compared to reference scenarios. The inclusion of tropical deforestation (not present in the Kyoto Protocol) at the heart of climate change negotiation has a great importance, both scientifically and politically. It is the first attempt within UNFCCC to address the fact that 20% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions stem from tropical deforestation[1]. The European Commission has released on 17 October 2008 a Communication on deforestation[2] where at the core of the proposed EU response is the objective to halt global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and to reduce gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 % by 2020 compared to current levels.

The JRC contributes thus in the scientific development of robust methodologies for estimating emissions from deforestation and forest degradation[3], including one of the first proposals for a reporting mechanism - as a prerequisite for any future REDD policy - published in a peer-reviewed journal[4]. Intense methodological debate within the UNFCCC expert groups have been held since the 11th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP-11) in Montreal. At COP-13 in December 2007 in Bali, a road map has been set up to reach an international agreement by COP-15 to be held in December 2009 in Copenhagen. The JRC scientific and technical contribution helped to bring the conception of the technical solutions to a point where a consensus is emerging.

Dr. Frédéric Achard, Action-leader at the JRC-IES, explains how his team delivered the concept for the world-wide forest accounting: "Well, we contributed first by designing an initial potential accounting mechanism for REDD. This work included technical options for determining references of forest conversions and built on the recent scientific achievements related to the estimation of tropical deforestation rates[5]." The JRC developed then further technical options in support to the REDD process including a proposal to tackle the issue of uncertainties of the REDD estimates[6] aimed at solving a critical issue for policy makers. This support includes as well the design of technical guidance through the JRC contribution to the “REDD Sourcebook” edited by the “Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics” (GOFC-GOLD) panel, an international panel of the Global Terrestrial Observing System. The Sourcebook[7], in which Dr. Frédéric Achard and Dr. Giacomo Grassi are part of the core-editors team, is designed to be a guide for estimating and reporting reduction in carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. A first version of the “REDD sourcebook” has been presented at COP-13 in Bali. The Sourcebook will be further developed in direct relation to the progress and decisions made during the UNFCCC negotiations. And updated versions are intended to be presented in December 2008 at COP-14 in Poznan and later on in 2009.

[1] Denman, K.L. et al. , 2007: Couplings Between Changes in the Climate System and Biogeochemistry. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
[2] EC, 2008, Addressing the challenges of deforestation and forest degradation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, Communication from the Commission, COM(2008) 645/3
[3] Achard F., H. Eva, H.J. Stibig, P. Mayaux, J. Gallego, T.Richards, J.P. Malingreau. 2002.
Determination of Deforestation Rates of the World`s Humid Tropical Forests. Science 297:999-1002
[4] Mollicone D., F. Achard, S. Federici, H. Eva, G. Grassi, A. Belward, F. Raes, G. Seufert, H.-J. Stibig, G. Matteucci and E.-D. Schulze, 2007: An incentive mechanism for reducing emissions from conversion of intact and non-intact forests. Climatic Change, 83:477–493
[5] Achard F, R DeFries, H Eva, M Hansen, P Mayaux and H-J Stibig 2007. Pan-tropical observations and mid-resolution monitoring of deforestation, Environmental Research Letters 2 045022
[6]Grassi G., Monni S, Federici S, Achard F, Mollicone D. 2008. Applying the conservativeness principle to REDD to deal with the uncertainties of the estimates. Environmental Research Letters 3 035005
[7] GOFC-GOLD. 2008. REDD: a sourcebook of methods and procedures for monitoring, measuring and reporting.. Achard F., Brown S., De Fries R., Grassi G., Herold M., Mollicone D.,  Souza Jr. C. (Eds)