Forests & Forest Products as Carbon Sinks

Forests are nature’s carbon mitigation solution.

The Problem: Human activity increases greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, resulting in higher average global temperatures and more extreme weather events. To limit further warming, no more than 1 trillion tonnes of carbon can be released by human activities by 2020.

The Solution: Active and sustainable management of natural and planted forests can: avoid and reduce emissions, absorb and store carbon, reduce forest damage and help stop deforestation, create multiple co-benefits from biodiversity conservation to improving livelihoods and generate renewable raw material for a broad range of everyday applications.

The Business Case

  • It’s a mitigation and an adaptation strategy. Managing more forests means reducing climate change risks and building resilience, providing critical ecosystem services that make life on earth possible (like fresh water), generating industrial wood and fiber for a very wide range of bio-product solutions (from paper to bio-energy), providing food and sustaining livelihoods and delivering recreational benefits.

  • It’s a product lifecycle strategy. Investing in forests and responsible forest product-use secures the availability of renewable and recyclable raw material, increases transparency throughout the value chain, improves resource efficiency, facilitates sustainable consumption and boosts consumer confidence in product offerings.

  • It enables carbon storage beyond forests. Global forest carbon stocks are estimated to be 861 billion tonnes. In addition, harvested wood products store carbon at a rate of 189 million tonnes per year and growing. That’s equivalent to removing 693 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually. Studies demonstrate the potential. For example, a four-story wooden house creates a net absorption of 150 tonnes of carbon dioxide, taking into account energy used for production of raw materials, transportation and construction. Similarly, a 10% increase in the percentage of wooden houses in Europe would produce sufficient CO2 savings to account for about 25% of the reductions prescribed by the Kyoto protocol.

  • It’s a landscape restoration strategy. The world has space for more productive forests. Two billion hectares of land, an area twice the size of China, are currently degraded or deforested. Appropriate reforestation for production, and landscape restoration for protection and conservation, enhance carbon sink potential, enrich soil properties, recover ecosystem services to support livelihoods, well-being and biodiversity, and provide ample economic opportunities.



  • Fully integrate Forests & Forest Products as Carbon Sinks into work plan of the Forest Solutions Group to drive concerted action and scale up solutions.

2014 Onward

  • Formalize cooperation between Energy & Climate Priority Area and the Forest Solutions Group and build common communications and advocacy strategy for global climate negotiation events.

  • Work with stakeholders to spread sustainable forest management and instrument coordinated outreach on the benefits of forests, forest products and energy from forest biomass in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

  • Strengthen engagement with The Consumer Goods Forum, the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 and other stakeholders to further implement sustainable sourcing guidelines and scale up responsible procurement practices to help achieve zero-net deforestation.

  • Implement certification leadership strategy to ensure that the supply of independently verified sustainable wood and other forest products continues to increase to meet growing demand. This includes developing targets, monitoring progress and developing innovative solutions.

  • Support approaches that include small forest owners, community forestry, indigenous peoples and agroforestry operators via forest certification and other tools.

  • Engage in multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms to address challenges around land-use decision-making, land tenure rights and REDD+ benefit sharing.


Awareness and capacity building

  • Improve understanding of the full value of forests, forest products and all co-benefits.

Partnerships and multi-stakeholder dialogue

  • Strengthen existing partnerships to drive concerted action.

  • Leverage multi-stakeholder dialogue to reduce conflict, build bridges and create innovative approaches to address stakeholder needs.

Market-based mechanisms

  • Expand the impact and reach of existing credible certification standards.

  • Enable markets for forest ecosystem services.


  • Unlock access to financing locally controlled, community-based forestry, small forest enterprises, including agro-forestry systems.


  • Eliminate policies that have adverse impacts on forests and cause market distortions.

  • Adopt integrated approach to land-use decision-making, including improved and transparent stakeholder consultation practices.

  • Clarify and adopt regulatory frameworks that ensure long-term certainty of tenure and property rights.

  • Implement and expand international frameworks, such as REDD+.

  • Improve forest governance structures.

Relevant priority areas

Jointly developed with: