United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Human activities are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Rising levels of greenhouse gases are already changing the climate. Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict that the global temperature will rise by about 1.4 - 5.8 by the year 2100. Climate change is likely to have a significant impact on the global environment through increased sea level causing flooding, increased precipitation, changes in extreme effects and changes in climatic zones disrupting forests, deserts, rangelands and other ecosystems. Human societies will face new risks and pressures on food security, water resources, physical infrastructure and human health.

The international community is tackling this challenge through the UNFCCC. The overarching objective of the Convention and related legal instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol is to achieve:

¿The stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner."

Forests play an important role in the climate system. They are a major reservoir of carbon, containing some 80% of all the carbon stored in land vegetation, and about 40% of the carbon residing in soils. Large quantities of carbon are emitted into the atmosphere through land-use change primarily in the tropics. Terrestrial ecosystems, such as temperate and boreal forests, approximately balance the emissions from land-use change in tropics. The Convention and the Kyoto Protocol recognise the role of forests as an option to mitigate climate change.