Forests provide optimum shield against climate risks: Mushahidullah

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Federal Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah Khan on Tuesday said that all-out efforts are being taken to boost Pakistan’s climate resilience by re-vitalising forestry sector.

“We cannot protect the country from devastating impacts of global warming-induced climate change, as long as our forests continue to remain chopped down”, the minister said while addressing a national consultative meeting on the World Bank-funded programme called REDD+(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) held in Islamabad.

“Forests are the best way to achieve enhanced climate resilience against fallouts of the climate change impacts,” he said.

The event was attended by forest experts from different countries and from different parts of the country, who discussed various technical and policy options to boost country’s tree cover as a part of the country’s climate resilience efforts.

REDD+ is a UN-led mechanism that aims for countries’ efforts to reduce heat trapping carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

The minister told the participants that international studies show that deforestation and land degradation accounts for a major share in overall global carbon emissions annually.

“Most people assume that global warming is caused by burning oil, gas and coal. But in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year or estimated 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide – is caused by deforestation, mainly the cutting and burning of forests, every year.”

However, the same amount of carbon climate-altering carbon dioxide gases released from fossil fuel burning through any source can be removed from the atmosphere to stabilize the climate change by halting deforestation, he added.

Quoting studies of the UN’s Food and Agriculture (FAO), Mushahidullah Khan said that trees are 50 percent carbon but when they are chopped down or burned, the carbon dioxide they store makes its way back into the air.

Besides, around 13 million hectares of forests worldwide are lost annually, almost entirely in the tropics, most of it occurs in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

He told the participants that an ambitious World Bank-funded US $3.8 million REDD+ programme has already been launched in the country that will help forest owners to access money for forest protection and controlling their shrinkage.

The minister pointed out that lack of access to energy for cooking and heating in households, illegal tree cutting, population growth and associated wood demand surge, changes in land cover for non-forestry uses, land erosion and degradation are among major causes of deforestation in the country.

However, the Mushahidullah Khan stressed, “Controlling deforestation in the country is not possible without increasing access to renewable and alternative energy sources, particularly for cooking and heating in households, reducing occurrence of land erosion and landslides by strengthening forested mountain slopes with vegetation cover and increasing public awareness about positive effects of forests on overall environment, human health and biodiversity.”

He also urged the provincial and federal representatives of the forest departments to join the climate change ministry’s efforts for implementing national forest policy that aims to halt deforestation and inject new life in the ailing forestry sector.

Meanwhile, the minister cautioned that involvement of local and indigenous forest community, community-based organizations, and educational institutions is key to bringing new life into the country’s unwell forestry sector.