Stopping Deforestation, Greening Agriculture Better Than Carbon Capture & Storage: UNEP

australia mangrove photo

photo: Alpha via flickr

A new report from the UN Environment Programme says what many small-t treehuggers have been saying for quite some time: Stopping deforestation, restoring marshes and peatlands, and practicing more sustainable agricultural techniques are probably a better bet for combatting climate change, not to mention less expensive, than investing tens of billions of dollars in carbon capture and storage at power plants. In specific this is what The Natural Fix? The Role of Ecosystems in Climate Mitigation recommends:Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP says that the international community is overlooking a "tried and tested method" for storing carbon "that has been working for millennia." Steiner added,

By some estimates the Earth's living systems might be capable of sequestering more than 50 gigatones (Gt) of carbon over the coming decades with the right market signals.

This is also in line with UNEP's Green Economy initiative as for the same dollar, euro, peso or yuan not only are we combating climate change, but potentially delivering additional economic, environmental and developmental benefits from improved water supplies, soil stabilization and reduced biodiversity losses alongside new kinds of green jobs in natural resource management and conservation.

The report says that tropical forests, peatlands and agriculture should be the priority in ecosystem carbon management.

Reduce Deforestation by Half
Reducing deforestation rates by 50% by 2050 and then maintaining them there until 2100 would avoid emitting the equivalent of 12% of the emissions needed to keep atmospheric CO2 concentrations below 450ppm.

Furthermore the report points out that temperate forests in North America and Europe have been expanding in recent years, currently storing in Europe 7-12% of emissions. This forest expansion should be encouraged to increase carbon storage.

Stop Degradation of Peatlands
Peatland degradation contributes about 0.8Gt of carbon to the atmosphere, much of which could be avoided through restoration measures.

Make Agriculture Carbon Neutral by 2030
Furthermore, the report says that the agricultural sector could be "broadly carbon neutral" by 2030 provided that sustainable management practices are widely adopted. That would avoid emitting some 2 Gt of carbon.

And It'll Will All Be Cheaper Than CCS
In terms of costs, the report estimates that enhance carbon storage in soils such as less intensive grazing and growing of crops can store CO2 at a cost of about $5-10 per tonne--as compared to $20-270 per ton for trapping them from power plants.

More: UNEP
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