Forests play an essential role in meeting the climate goals agreed in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. The Agreement also requires its Parties to take concrete steps to conserve and enhance zero greenhouse gas (GHG) sinks and reservoirs.
About one-third of anthropogenic CO₂ emissions are removed by terrestrial ecosystems, mainly forests. When this carbon sink is reduced due to natural causes such as forest fires, or due to human activities such as deforestation, the carbon stored is released back into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating climate change. In the European Union (EU), the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector has been a relatively stable net sink of GHGs. However, it has been projected that as the demand for timber and biomass increases for example because of the need to switch from fossil fuel based energy to energy produced from renewable sources, this carbon sink risks declining also in the EU. This is a cause of concern as the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal requires reaching and sustaining net zero global anthropogenic CO₂ emissions between 2050-2075, and negative emissions (i.e. removal of CO₂ from the atmosphere) by the end of this century. Forest management represents a scientifically feasible and cost-effective way of removing carbon from the atmosphere whereas other negative emissions technologies (such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) remain unproven.