The 9 million hectares of planted trees absorb 1.88 billion tons of CO2eq¹ from the atmosphere.
Climate changes are caused by the increase in greenhouse gases (GHG) resulting from human activities, and represent one of today’s main environmental problems.
The Brazilian Tree Industry (Ibá) represents a 100% renewable sector with a potential to mitigate the effects of climate change that is directly proportional to the capacity to create and utilize carbon market mechanisms and integrated and coordinated public policies.
For example, it is estimated that the 9 million hectares of planted forests in Brazil are responsible for storing approximately 1.88 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) − the metric used to compare emissions of various greenhouse gases, based on the global warming potential of each (FIGURE 2). In addition to the carbon removed and stored by planted trees, the sector generates and maintains carbon reserves of approximately 2.6 billion tons of CO2, and 5.9 million hectares in the form of Legal Reserves (RL), Permanent Protection Areas (APP), and other conservation areas.
The productive structure of the planted tree industry is divided into two main components:
- The forest component, which represents the areas of planted forests and conservation of natural forests, and
- The manufacturing component, which corresponds to the structures for processing wood (production of pulp and paper, charcoal to produce pig iron, iron alloys and steel, boards and plywood panels, treated wood for construction, and bioenergy, among other products).
The forest component is based on removing and stocking carbon through reforestation with productive forests (utilizing renewable cycles of planting and harvesting) and sustainable management of conservation areas containing native forests. The scale of carbon removal generated by increases in forest stocks and their ability to maintain carbon for long periods gives forests enormous potential to help combat climate change, especially over the coming decades.
Meanwhile, in the manufacturing component, many segments of forest-based industry are approaching self-sufficiency in renewable energy, with minimum levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). This is the result of adopting a range of measures such as replacing fossil energy sources with renewable ones like biomass.
There are various types of climate benefits which represent the sector’s potential:
- Carbon removal by natural and productive forests
- Carbon stocking in natural and productive forests
- Emissions avoided by the use of renewable energy sources such as biomass
- Carbon stocking in wood products.
Any initiatives in the context of domestic public policy or international regulations should consider these characteristics.
Another highlight is the importance of integrating public policies related to the sector into the National Policy on Climate Change (PNMC) and full utilization of the means to implement measures that have been created at the international level, particularly within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Accord that resulted from COP21. The structure of the Accord deserves special attention for the utilization of a new market mechanism which is to be regulated based on the experience of the existing mechanism (Clean Development Mechanism).
Considering the opportunities for expansion of planted and native forests and the use of forest products in a variety of productive chains, it is clear that the Brazilian planted tree industry has major potential to contribute to the fight against climate change. But the development and aid provided by the sector depend on effective demand, real appreciation of renewable forest products, and overcoming various hurdles. The construction of public policies and carbon market mechanisms that can internalize and economically promote climate benefits are therefore fundamental to the proper positioning of the sector in the new global low-carbon economy.
CO2eq¹: Metric used to compare the emissions of several greenhouse gases, based on the global warming potential of each one.