Forests can contribute to climate change mitigation through a range of pathways such as reducing emissions through avoided deforestation, increasing carbon stocks through reforestation or afforestation or substituting for fossil fuel emissions through bioenergy production or substituting high-energy building materials, with timber. Forests have played a major role in Australia’s national climate change mitigation responses since it ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994. Reduced rates of deforestation and increased reforestation allowed Australia to meet its first commitment period (2008-2012) target in the Kyoto Protocol (KP) despite significant emissions growth in the broader economy. Forest-related activities, and in particular avoided deforestation and reforestation, will also allow Australia to exceed its KP second commitment period (2012-2020) target.
In addition to relying on reduced rates of deforestation there has been considerable research and policy innovation in Australia in developing new mitigation options for the forest sector. This has included national legislation to allow carbon mitigation through land-based projects and the development of formal methods for the production of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) from avoided deforestation, forest management and reforestation. There has also been considerable work on new approaches to reforestation of farmland including (a) forests established to produce non-traditional benefits such as watershed or biodiversity restoration via carbon sequestration, (b) methods to integrate reforestation into farming systems to reduce competitive effects and increase co-benefits. Although these approaches have been developed within an Australian context they are relevant globally as countries grapple with the issues of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions and also broad-scale environmental degradation.