Kyoto Protocol – important tool for sustainable development

Kyoto Protocol – important tool for sustainable development

16February 2005


Rome, 16 February 2005 -The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and its provisions today will not only oblige industrialized countries to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases, but also enhance sustainable development in developing countries, according to FAO.

“The Kyoto Protocol provides mechanisms that will encourage investment in climate-friendly projects, which will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time promote sustainable development in developing countries,” said Wulf Killmann, chairperson of the FAO climate change working group.

Adaptation to climate change

Developing countries are projected to experience up to 11 percent decrease in cultivable rainfed land by 2080 from 1995 due to climate change, according to a study released by FAO and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

The study projects that 65 developing countries may lose up to 280 million tons of cereal production to an estimated value of US$ 56 billion, as a result of climate change.

A facility under the protocol, whereby developed countries pay for carbon emission offsets, will help finance adaptation activities to assist highly-vulnerable developing countries to cope with the challenges of climate change. FAO will support vulnerable countries in identifying and formulating projects that will enable them to receive such investments.

Measures include the use of bioenergy, reforestation, and the adoption of improved agricultural practices that help reduce emissions from agriculture while increasing production.

Bioenergy, best alternative to fossil fuel

Bioenergy, or energy derived from biomass, includes fuelwood, charcoal, agricultural waste, energy crops, livestock manure, biogas, biohydrogen and bioalcohol. It is one of the most important alternatives to fossil fuel in both developing and industrialized countries.

With more investment in increasing bioenergy generation and use, carbon emissions could be reduced by between 5 and 25 percent of projected fossil fuel emissions for the year 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Forests, carbon dioxide sinks

Under the Kyoto Protocol, forests play a unique role as carbon sinks because they can recapture and store carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Every time a forest grows two cubic meters of wood, it captures roughly one ton of carbon from the air.

On the other hand, about a quarter of all greenhouse gases, or roughly 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide, is released annually when forests are destroyed.

Under the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries can offset a limited amount of their emission reduction commitments through investments in projects in developing countries, which sequester carbon. For the amount of carbon sequestered the country receives certified emissions reductions, which can be traded.

Having thus become a commodity, this carbon has a value of about US$ 15 to 25 at current carbon market prices and provides the opportunity for rural populations to earn income from tree planting projects.

Climate-friendly agricultural practices

Historically, forest conversion into agricultural land has been an important source of greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere, accounting for about a third of total emission.

“With an intensification of agriculture we will reduce such conversion of forestry and thus deforestation,” said Killmann.

Also, improved agricultural practices exist, which can reduce carbon emission from agriculture and store carbon in plant biomass and soils while increasing production, for instance, increased use of bio-fuel based machinery, more rational use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, no tillage, covering soil with vegetal material, direct seeding and diversified crop rotation, and new rice systems with fewer methane emissions.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, FAO aims to identify, develop and promote these practices so that developing countries may gain additional income from selling carbon credits, while improving the livelihoods of farmers through enhanced soil fertility and higher crop production.
Maria Kruse
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 56524 


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