Climate Benefits of Forest Stewardship Council CertificationMarch 26, 2010
Today we’d like to offer an extra arrow for you to add to your quiver of talking points about why Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is the premier system for promoting responsible forestry: FSC certification can be part of a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forest degradation. Forest degradation is a major cause of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — amounting to 20 percent or more of total emissions from tropical forests.
In many cases, the best practices implemented by forest managers in order to earn FSC certification lead to reduced carbon emissions compared with non-certified, commercial forestry operations (TNC, et al., 2009). These climate-beneficial best practices include:
Increased forest area under conservation and restoration — Activities such as protecting High Conservation Value Forests, prohibiting the conversion of natural habitats and encouraging forest restoration mean that FSC-certified forests retain more biomass — and emit fewer GHGs — than their non-certified counterparts.
Reduced harvest volumes — FSC-certified tropical forests generally harvest lower mean volumes per unit area of logged forest. Short-cycle, re-entry logging practices common in non-certified forests reduce living biomass and carbon stocks on forestland, contributing to greater emissions.
Reduced harvesting impacts — Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) practices are the norm in FSC-certified forests. RIL is an established set of timber harvesting practices designed to reduce the collateral damage resulting from timber extraction. These practices have been estimated to represent possible emissions reductions of at least 10 percent (Putz et. al., 2008).
Measures to prevent unauthorized activities and fire — FSC-certified forests use preventive management systems, personal training programs, and monitoring and mitigation measures to reduce the frequency and impacts of unauthorized encroachment and extraction, illegal logging, and wildfires.
The Rainforest Alliance has been actively promoting these, and other, climate benefits of FSC-certification. For more information, please see the following documents: FSC Certification Keeps Trees Standing and Forests Intact; The Hidden Frontier of Forest Degradation (chapter 5); and The Potential Role of Responsible Forestry in REDD.