Forests Can Play an Essential Role in Reducing Climate Change Impacts of Aviation

Leading international NGOs issue a joint policy paper recommending REDD+ as an integral part of meeting 7.8 billion tonne aviation emission gap

Today, VCS along with other leading international non-governmental organizations released a briefing paper, “Linking Flights and Forests,” which highlights the vital role forests can play in fighting climate change and recommends that countries include REDD+, a policy framework for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as a means for the international aviation sector to meet its commitments to cap and reduce its carbon pollution. The full press release as well as links to the issue brief and technical overview are below. 


Read Linking Flight and Forests: The Essential Role of Forests in Supporting Global Aviation’s Response to Climate Change


The briefing paper was released prior to a regional meeting in the Netherlands of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN body responsible for setting the standards for international flights. The meeting continues ICAO’s dialogues toward finalizing a global market-based measure (MBM) to assist the international aviation sector in achieving its agreed emission reduction targets which aim to cap international aviation emissions at 2020 levels and to deliver “carbon neutral growth from 2020.” If the international aviation industry were its own country, it would be among the top-ten emitters of carbon dioxide globally. Countries are currently developing the components of the MBM, including what types of activities should be eligible as offsets, and will finalize the MBM at the 39th ICAO Assembly in September-October 2016.

Even with proposed operational and aircraft efficiency improvements, the increasing demand for air travel would leave the international aviation industry falling short of meeting its post-2020 emission reduction commitments with a gap of 7.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. In order to close that gap, the briefing paper concludes, ICAO should allow REDD+ as an eligible activity under the final MBM.

REDD+ is a framework developed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. This framework was specifically recognized by all member states of the UNFCCC as a valuable mitigation strategy and financial incentive in Article 5 of the 2015 Paris Agreement, sending a strong global signal about the importance of REDD+ and its role in addressing climate change. REDD+ offers incentives to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests and their natural capital and has nearly a decade of proven results under a variety of GHG programs. To address climate change, it is important to protect the world’s forests, which store more carbon than is contained in the world’s atmosphere. Tropical forests alone absorb almost a fifth of all carbon dioxide released each year from the burning of fossil fuels, thus playing a significant role in slowing the rate of climate change. Unlike mitigation efforts in most other sectors, each REDD+ credit not only avoids one tonne of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere, but can also protect biodiversity, support local communities and ensure that vital ecosystem functions remain intact.

The group of non-governmental organizations–which includes Conservation International (CI), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Forest Trends (FT), Global Canopy Programme (GCP), International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL), Sustainable Travel International (STI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)–see REDD+ as a proven, efficient and effective way to achieve emission reductions at scale, as well as additional benefits for society and the environment. It is in line with the goals and principles of the ICAO MBM, and the supply of robust and cost-effective REDD+ offsets can play a key role in filling the emissions gap and supporting the aviation sector to meet its climate goals. The critical window in which countries can ensure this mutually beneficial partnership between forests and flight and include REDD+ credits as an eligible mitigation option for the MBM,  is between now and the ICAO Assembly in September-October 2016. These organizations call on ICAO to include REDD+ credits as an eligible mitigation option for the MBM