Policy options

Policy options

Our scientific research has been guided by influencing forest policy

Project members working on forest policy

Virginia Young

Virginia Young

Virginia is a Director of the International Forests and Climate Programme for the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society (ARCS) working in the international policy arena on primary forests as part of a global collaborative research programme funded through Griffith University. 
Dr. Mary Stuart Booth

Mary S. Booth

Dr. Mary Booth is the Director of the The Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) and a nationally-recognised advocate known for producing high-quality, data-driven arguments.
Ang Phuri Sherpa

Ang Phuri Sherpa

Ang Phuri Sherpa is the Red Panda Netwok's Country Director in Nepal.
Barbara Zimmerman

Barbara Zimmerman

Barbara is the Director Kayapo Project on behalf of the International Conservation Fund of Canada playing a key role in support of Indigenous Peoples in conservation of very large areas of forest in Brazilian Amazon.
Cyril Kormos

Cyril Kormos

Cyril is Founder and Executive Director of Wild Heritage, a project of Earth Island Institute. He also serves as IUCN-WCPA Vice-Chair for World Heritage, is a member of IUCN’s World Heritage Panel and chairs the IUCN-WCPA World Heritage Network.
Zoltan Kun

Zoltán Kun

Zoltán has expertise in forest management, protected area design and climate change mitigation in the temperate and boreal zone with particular attention to Europe.
Dominick Dellasala

Dominick DellaSalla

Dominick is Chief Scientist at Wild Heritage, and former President of the Society for Conservation Biology, North America Section and internationally renowned author of over 200 science papers on forest and fire ecology, conservation biology, endangered species management, and landscape ecology. .
Dr Brendan Mackey

Brendan Mackey

Project Director and Director of the Griffith Climate Action Beacon at Griffith University, contributing to community planning and engagement in forest projects.

1. Is forest biomass really 'clean energy'?

The recent shift towards using forest biomass burning for energy generation in power stations comes risks  increased CO2 emissions and
negative impacts on forest ecosystem integrity - all in the name of 'clean energy'.

There is increasing evidence that primary forests around the world are being harvested for wood chips that find their way into feedstocks of thermal power stations in Europe and Asia. In many instances, biomass that has been approved for harvest for high-value timber products is being directly used for energy generation - illegally.

The theory is based on 'net carbon accounting'. Biomass used in energy production that emits CO2 is offset by biomass regrowth - the net change in CO2 in the atmosphere is assumed as zero.

Obviously, this concept ignores the timing of the emissions. The CO2 emissions from biomass burnt today takes many years to be fully sequestered back into biomass. Meanwhile, the CO2 is generating a radiative forcing in the atmosphere.

Furthermore, even when forests are selectively logged, the degradation has material impacts on the total forest biomass.

The project generated a number of outputs, including research papers, media, and policy briefs.

Key findings:

  1. If fossil fuels are replaced with burning forest biomass for energy generation there will be major perverse impacts in terms of both elevated anthropogenic carbon emissions and substantial negative impacts on forest ecosystem integrity and increased biodiversity loss.
  2. Using forest biomass, including so-called forestry residues, should not be included as an eligible renewable energy source in renewable energy policies including directives, regulations, targets and other instruments.

2. The climate crisis and biodiversity crisis have the same solutions

The Nexus Report: Nature Based Solutions to the Biodiversity and Climate Crisis highlights the importance of biodiversity protection for climate action (and vice versa). The report provides guidance and recommendations on how action on climate change can explicitly and systematically take biodiversity conservation into account to meet the challenges of both crises.

The report and its findings were taken to, and tailored for, negotiations at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and to the G20.

Key findings:

  1. Preventing biodiversity loss, mitigating and adapting to climate change is practicable, cost-effective, and achievable.
  2. Too often biodiversity and climate change are dealt with in relative isolation, including in how governments and other stakeholders organize themselves to act on these two inextricably linked issues.
  3. If action on climate change explicitly and systematically takes biodiversity conservation into account, we can generate synergies and positive feedback loops, with respect to generating political will, mobilizing financial and technical resources, and taking action on the ground

3. There is a 'land gap' between pledges and a safe climate

The ‘Land Gap’ Report highlighted that countries’ climate pledges rely on unrealistic amounts of land-based carbon removal and demonstrated the need for much deeper cuts in emissions importance of protecting all remaining primary ecosystems; securing land rights for communities; and shifting to agroecology in food production.

The Land Gap Report was launched just before the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference and informed advocacy work there.

Key findings:

  1. Countries’ climate pledges rely on unrealistic amounts of land-based carbon removal, and hence must instead make much deeper cuts in emissions.
  2. The report emphasises the need for much deeper cuts in emissions importance of protecting all remaining primary ecosystems; securing land rights for communities; and shifting to agroecology in food production.

4. Including forest protection in the Glasgow Climate Pact

The Program has provided the evidence-base for the inclusion and implementation of forest protection to support climate action and biodiversity and explicit mention of carbon reservoirs into the Glasgow Climate Pact through a better understanding of carbon accounting.

Article 38 of Glasgow Climate Pact:

“Emphasizes the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems to achieve the Paris Agreement temperature goal, including through forests and other terrestrial and marine ecosystems acting as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and by protecting biodiversity, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards”

5. Informing improved forest landscape management

The frameworks developed by the Program are informing and guiding management and evaluation of landscape-based approaches to forests. This has included frameworks to ensure more holistic approaches to landscape management and practical tools for evaluating landscape planning.

Key outcomes:

The work of the program has been included in the Land Sector Climate Action and Ecosystem Protection & Restoration advice in the CLARA Guide to Nationally Determined Contributions, which is designed to make it easier for people and communities to engage with the discussions on land-use impacts of climate change.

Policy publications

Using ecosystem integrity to maximise climate mitigation and minimise risk in international forest policy

Rules and guidelines that treat forests equally in key international policy frameworks regardless of their risk profiles limit their effectiveness and can facilitate forest degradation. Here we assess the potential for using a framework of ecosystem integrity to guide policy goals.

Burning forest biomass for energy is a climate own goal

Data from Europe shows that there has been a major increase in the intensification of logging in Europe over the past five to seven years and this could prevent many European nations reaching their emissions reduction targets under the Paris and Glasgow agreements. The same process is now being pushed heavily by certain forest industry lobbyists and government agencies in several Australian states, including Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.

Recognising the importance of unmanaged forests to mitigate climate change

The carbon stock in Europe's forests is decreasing and the importance of protecting ‘unmanaged’ forests must be recognised in reversing this process. Scientific evidence suggests that ‘unmanaged’ forests have higher total biomass carbon stock than secondary forests being actively managed for commodity production or recently abandoned.