Today, world leaders from governments, businesses, and NGOs joined together to announce the first global timeline to slow and halt forest lost. The New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) commits to cutting forest loss in half by 2020, and ending it by 2030, as well as eliminating forest loss from commercial supply chains by 2020 and restoring at least 350 million hectares of degraded forest lands by 2030. Actions and pledges by these governments, businesses and organizations will take a major bite out of future climate emissions. As of May 2016, UNDP launched a new online resource for the NYDF.
To see just how big a bite it is, our new white paper “Quantifying Benefits of the New York Declaration on Forests” synthesizes the best available research on the greenhouse gas emissions from forests and the potential of restored forests to pull emissions out of the atmosphere. We find that, when implemented, the Declaration will cut emissions of global warming pollution between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons per year by 2030. That is about the same as removing from the road all the cars in the world, or not burning a trillion pounds of coal, or turning off every smokestack and tailpipe in the United States.
You can read much more about the methodology, including assumptions, data sources, and sensitivity analyses, in the full paper. Here, I’d like to look at the near term emissions impacts of the Declaration – what it would achieve by 2020 compared to reductions necessary to have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees Celsius of warming.
Figure 1: Emissions impact of the New York Declaration on Forests through 2020
Figure 1 shows the range of emission reduction estimates per year in 2020 (blue), average per year through 2020 (orange), and total through 2020 (green, right axis) based on different sources from the literature for the forest loss component (left), the restoration component (center) and the total (right). We find that, when implemented, the Declaration would cut emissions of global warming pollution between 2 and 4.2 billion tons per year by 2020. And this estimate could be low. If we are successful at eliminating forest loss from commercial supply chains by 2020, we could end up cutting deforestation by well over half – as much as 75% by some estimates, which would increase the overall reduction to 2.7 to 5.5 billion tons per year by 2020.
To put the scale of reduction in the context, we display these estimates side-by-side with the most recent emissions gap analyses by UNEP below in Figure 2.
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited stakeholders with a challenge “to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap…” We couldn’t ask for a stronger answer to this challenge than we’ve seen on forests, with a consensus vision that goes a long way towards averting the climate crisis.
Figure 2: The New York Declaration on Forests Helps Close the Emissions Gap
Quantifying Benefits of the New York Declaration on Forests
This paper by Michael Wolosin analyzes the main measurable outputs of the New York Declaration on Forests, by quantifying the total emissions reduced or avoided, and total area of forest conserved or restored, that would be achieved by the combined measures included in the Declaration.