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Current Affairs

Tree plantations and climate change

Date: 06 July 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

Poorly-designed or badly-enforced policies to promote and incentivise tree plantations in an effort to fight climate change risk wasting public money by releasing more carbon than natural forests and destroying biodiversity.

 

Background

Realising the importance of forests and trees in curbing global warming, global initiatives have been started such as the World Economic Forum’s to plant a trillion trees and the United Nations Bonn Challenge to bring 350 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2030.

 

Details

  • When forests grow, they absorb the carbon – a greenhouse gas whose emission is mainly responsible for climate change – from the atmosphere, functioning as a “carbon sink”.

  • Rather than restoring natural forests, such campaigns are promoting plantation of a single type of tree – monoculture – or a limited number of species.

  • These plantations typically have significantly less potential for carbon sequestration and biodiversity promotion.

  • The potential benefit shrinks further if planted trees replace natural forests, grasslands or savannahs – ecosystems that have evolved to support unique, local biodiversity, said the study.

  • The findings are especially relevant for India, where a national programme that promotes compensatory monoculture plantations has become a simple tool to fell natural forests for non-forest purposes including industrial and development projects.

  • To fight climate change, India has pledged to get 33% of its geographical area under forest cover by 2022, compared to the existing 24%.

  • Under current law, the Indian government collects money from industries in lieu of the natural forest diverted for their projects. This money is later given to states for compensatory afforestation under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning Authority of the Union environment ministry.

  • Although mono-dominant plantations could match natural species-rich biodiverse forests in terms of carbon capture and storage potential in wet seasons, the latter were more stable and hence more reliable in their ability to capture carbon over the years, particularly during droughts.

  • Global campaigns could make a real difference if they focus on the restoration of degraded forests along with introducing strong subsidy restrictions, such as prohibitions against replacing native forests with tree plantations.