Forests provide optimum shield against climate risks: Mushahidullah

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 8 (APP): Federal Climate Change Minister
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”, he added.
“Forests are the best way to achieve enhanced climate
resilience against fallouts of the climate change impacts,” he
told a national consultative meeting on the World Bank-funded
programme called REDD+(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation
and Forest Degradation) held here.
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.