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Land use in a future climate agreement

This paper explores options for including land use in a future (post-2020) climate change agreement as anticipated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). Options are considered with an eye toward reaching agreement under the ADP, keeping in mind the level of ambition of global efforts, and the need to accelerate the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The paper discusses the features of land use that have differentiated its treatment from that of other sectors and assesses options to address these features in a future agreement. It examines options to increase the coverage and mitigation effectiveness of land-use contributions, and explores requirements for increasing the clarity, transparency and understanding of these contributions. Finally, the paper examines options for creating incentives in the land-use sector that will increase mitigation ambition.

Special features of land use

Characteristics of emissions and removals related to land use that may require special consideration of the sector in a new agreement under the ADP include:

  • The legacy effect: past management can have an effect on carbon stocks in an ecosystem and cause stocks to vary from period to period even when the management maintains or increases stocks over time.
  • Non-permanence: carbon stocks may be protected, or increase through human activities and be credited towards meeting mitigation targets, but these benefits may be reversed subsequently due to natural causes or human action.
  • Non-anthropogenic and indirect effects: natural disturbances such as extreme weather, fires, or pest attacks can lead to significant fluctuations in emissions. Changes in emissions and removals may also relate to the natural carbon cycle, or to indirect effects such as CO2 fertilization and nitrogen deposition.
  • Complexities of estimation: despite improvements in methods, emissions and removals associated with biological systems can be difficult to estimate and national systems for doing this are not always well developed.

Download the paper here: Land use in a future climate agreement

Download the executive summary in French/Spanish: Land use in a future climate agreement