Turning down the heat: on forest
restoration (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: Cop 21
Mains level: Role of forest on climate change
• During the run-up to the Paris climate change meeting in 2015 (COP-21)
under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, each country
decided the level and kind of effort it would undertake to solve the global
problem of climate change.
• These actions were later referred to as nationally determined contributions
Strategies announced by India
• India made a number of promises that would lead to the reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions, or mitigation, and actions to adapt to living in a
warmer world, or adaptation.
• Many of its described programmes and plans were intended to enable India to
move to a climate-friendly sustainable development pathway.
• Primarily, by 2030, there will be reductions in the emissions intensity of
the GDP by about a third and a total of 40% of the installed capacity for
electricity will be from non-fossil fuel sources.
• India also promised an additional carbon sink a means to absorb carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide
equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by the year 2030.
• Trees and other vegetation fix carbon as part of photosynthesis and soil
too holds organic carbon from plants and animals.
• The amount of soil carbon varies with land management practices, farming
methods, soil nutrition and temperature.
Enhancing green cover
• India has yet to determine how its carbon sink objectives can be met. In a
recent study, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has estimated, along with the
costs involved, the opportunities and potential actions for additional forest
and tree cover to meet the NDC target.
• Given that forest and green cover already show a gradual increase in recent
years, one might use this increase as part of the contribution towards the NDC.
• Or one might think of the additional 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent
sink as having to be above the background or business-as-usual increase.
• The additional increase in carbon sinks, as recommended in this report, is
to be achieved by the following ways: restoring impaired and open forests;
afforesting wastelands; agro-forestry; through green corridors, plantations
along railways, canals, other roads, on railway sidings and rivers; and via
urban green spaces. Close to three quarters of the increase (72.3 %) will be by
restoring forests and afforestation on wastelands, with a modest rise in total
• The FSI study has three scenarios, representing different levels of
increase in forest and tree cover. For example, 50%, 60% or 70% of impaired
forests could be restored.
• The total increase in the carbon sink in these scenarios could be 1.63,
2.51 or 3.39 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030, at costs varying from
about ₹1.14 to ₹2.46 lakh crore.
• These figures show that the policy has to be at least at a medium level of
increase to attain the stated NDC targets.
• A recent study in Nature by Simon Lewis and colleagues provides insights
into what works well with regard to green cover. Locking up the carbon from the
atmosphere in trees, ground vegetation and soils is one of the safest ways with
which to remove carbon.
• If done correctly, the green cover increase will provide many other
benefits: it will improve water quality, store water in wetlands, prevent soil
erosion, protect biodiversity, and potentially provide new jobs.
• The authors estimate that allowing land to be converted into forests
naturally will sequester 42 times the carbon compared to land converted to
plantation, or six times for land converted to agroforestry.
• Another study in Science by Jean-François Bastin and colleagues estimates
that it is possible to add 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover worldwide,
potentially mitigating up to two-thirds of historical greenhouse gas emissions.
• This would then prevent or delay the worst impacts from climate change.
Restoration type is key
• These studies indicate that while there is enormous potential in mitigating
climate change through forest restoration, the amount of carbon stored depends
on the type of forest restoration carried out.
• The most effective way is through natural forest regeneration with
appropriate institutions to facilitate the process.
• Vast monocultures of plantations are being proposed in some countries,
including in India, but these hold very little carbon; when they are harvested,
carbon is released as the wood is burned.
• Besides, some of the trees selected for the plantations may rely on
aquifers whose water becomes more and more precious with greater warming.
• Such forms of green cover, therefore, do not mitigate climate change and
also do not improve biodiversity or provide related benefits. India, therefore,
needs first to ensure that deforestation is curtailed to the maximum extent.
• The area allocated to the restoration of impaired and open forests and
wastelands in the FSI report should be focussed entirely on natural forests and
• While using a carbon lens to view forests has potential dangers, involving
local people and planting indigenous tree varieties would also reduce likely
• Instead of plantations, growing food forests managed by local communities
would have additional co-benefits.
• Once natural forests are established, they need to be protected. Protecting
and nurturing public lands while preventing their private enclosure is therefore
• Active forest management by local people has a long history in India and
needs to expand to meet climate, environment and social justice goals.
Q.1) With reference to the Plan Bee, consider the following statements:
1. It is an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to
keep wild elephants away from railway tracks.
2. It earned the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) the best innovation award in
Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
Q.1) There is enormous potential in mitigating climate change through
forest restoration. Comment.