New Report Says Countries Are Over-Relying On Reforestation Rather Than Fossil Fuel Phase-Out

New Report Says Countries Might Over-Rely On Reforestation Rather Than Fossil Fuel Phase-Out - Carbon Herald

Updated research on climate pledges for all UN Members suggests countries might be over-relying on forest restoration and reforestation to reach their net zero goals. 

The analysis called Land Gap Report Briefing Note: 2023 Update is built upon the 2022 Land Gap Report, which suggested that reforestation and restoration projects made up the largest portion of land area pledged for carbon removal projects. The analysis says that the focus at the upcoming COP28 should be on phasing out fossil fuels instead. 

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The new research includes the findings from an analysis of the climate pledges of 197 countries as well as the EU. It quantifies the land area requirements for 142 pledges that rely on carbon dioxide removal, including land and forest restoration, reforestation, and for a very small number of countries, BECCS.

The update also takes into account new country pledges submitted during the last year and analysis that provides new information on previous pledges. It highlights that the implementation of current land-based climate mitigation pledges will require about 910-1,060 million hectares (2.25-2.62 billion acres) to be fulfilled – an area larger than the United States.

It also points out that about 470-490 million hectares of that area are currently required for reforestation and afforestation projects – Saudi Arabia and the United States account for 42% and 25% of that land respectively. A further 440-570 million hectares are destined for the restoration of ecosystems and degraded lands, with Russia making up about 70% of all pledged restoration activities.

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The report flags the risk that the countries with the countries mentioned with the most ambitious forest restoration and reforestation activities might rely too much on them to compensate for a lack of decarbonization ambition in sectors like power generation and heavy industry. Rather than over-relying on carbon removals, the most emitting countries should concentrate on phasing out fossil fuels, according to the report. 

Ambitious development of nature-based carbon removal projects is a must, however, the findings show that they should not be used as a way to compensate for the absence of near-term emission reduction solutions.

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