Mitigation Opportunities and Potential in Land Use Sectors

During 2000-2005, the annual net loss of forest area was estimated at approximately 9.39 Mha (FAO 2006). However, the gross annual deforestation rate was approximately 13 Mha globally during the same period. Deforestation is a major source of CO2 emissions from the LULUCF sector. Further, forests are subjected to disturbances such as forest fires and pests or climatic events of drought and floods, and these disturbances affect about 100 Mha of forests annually. More than 750 Mha of forest land was estimated to have been cleared in developing countries (Houghton 1993; Dale et al. 1993), with more than 90% of the cleared land being managed inefficiently or used for marginal agriculture (Lugo and Brown 1993). Area under forests in the developing countries, largely tropical forests, declined by 200 Mha during the period 1980-2000. The total area under forest plantations was about 140 Mha in 2005, with an annual rate of afforestation of about 2.8 Mha (FAO 2006). Therefore, the most obvious primary mitigation opportunities relate to slowing or halting deforestation and forest degradation, reforestation or afforestation of the deforested or other degraded lands to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and bioenergy projects to replace fossil fuels.

In addition to mitigation opportunities in the forest sector, significant additional mitigation opportunities exist in grassland reclamation and management as well as agricultural sector activities such as agroforestry and land reclamation.

The IPCC Third Assessment Report (Kauppi et al. 2001) concluded that the forest sector can sequester 5.38 GtCO2 per year on an average until 2050, whereas an earlier IPCC report (Watson et al. 2000) had quoted an even higher technical mitigation potential of 11.67 GtCO2 per year. According to IPCC (2007c), the economic mitigation potential in the forest sector ranges from 2.7 to 13.8 GtCO2 annually by 2030 at less than US$100 per tCO2.

The annual potential for increasing carbon sinks in agriculture sector is estimated to be in the range of 2.9-8.8 GtCO2 (Cole et al. 1996). According to IPCC (2007c), carbon sequestration or mitigation potential in the agriculture sector is 3.87 GtCO2 annually at less than US$100 per tCO2. Further, the most prominent mitigation opportunity in the agriculture sector relates to carbon sink enhancement through sequestration of carbon in soil though improved cropland and grazing land management, requiring improved estimates.

Thus, carbon mitigation potential in agriculture and forest sector together, excluding bioenergy, is in the range of 6.57-17.6 GtCO2 annually up to 2030 at less than US$100 per tCO2 (IPCC 2007c). However, mitigation potential estimates in agriculture and forest sectors are characterized by a wide range and high uncertainty.

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