A new report from the European Commission suggests that, in coming decades, safeguarding and storing carbon in ecosystems has the potential to prevent well over 50 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon from entering the atmosphere.
With all the varying ideas being tested for carbon storage, the EU wants to imply that the easiest route may simply be to let things grow.
There are three priority ecosystems for carbon conservation and management: forests, peatlands, and agriculture.
Bearing in mind, the Climate Action and Renewable Energy package launched by the EU, which set a target of reducing overall emissions to at least 20 per cent below recorded levels in 1990--by 2020, conserving natural resources while aiding emissions targets at the same time is a big deal.
Both European and global emission reduction targets could easily be helped by enhancing nature's carbon capture and storage capacity. In other words, promoting forest growth rather than deforestation, reducing peatland harvesting, and promoting healthy agriculture usage are the key.
Reducing deforestation rates by 50 per cent by 2050 and maintaining them at this level until 2100 (with deforestation stopping altogether when 50 per cent of an area remains in each country that was originally forested in 2000) would avoid the release of up to 50 Gt of carbon this century.
Reducing deforestation in tropical regions would have the biggest impact, where the emissions are equivalent to about 15 per cent of the total global anthropogenic carbon emissions.
Compare This to Biofuels:
Peatlands - The draining of peatland for agricultural land and other land uses emits up to 0.8 Gt of carbon a year. This is particularly problematic for tropical peat-swamp forests in South-East Asia which are being drained for palm oil and pulpwood production. The carbon value of peatland far outweighs the carbon benefits of the biofuel crops.
For example, the combustion of palm oil produced on drained peatland equates to a carbon 'debt' (more emissions being released than reduced) which can take centuries of biofuel production to repay.
Agriculture - Agriculture has the potential to make significant gains in carbon storage. If best management practices were adopted, it is estimated that 5.5 to 6.0 Gt of CO2 equivalent could be saved per year by 2030.
About 90 per cent of this could be achieved by enhancing carbon sinks and 10 per cent from emission reductions. This could make agriculture almost carbon neutral. These management practices could include crop rotation and agroforestry which combines food production with tree planting.
Forestry - The report suggests that the management of carbon storage and uptake is achievable if the right policy framework is in place. It suggests we need to change our perception of the natural world from an offset mechanism - where forests are planted to compensate for emissions - to a sector capable of real reductions in emissions.
However, there is uncertainty about the amounts of carbon sequestered and researchers note that all stores, except perhaps peat, would eventually reach saturation. For the most part, contingency plans are inevitable.
The European Commission's idea is to use the resources at our disposal first by changing our policy and practices, thereby limiting the need for invasive, costly alternative solutions.
Source: Environmental Expert.
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