Most proposals to meet the Paris Agreement aspiration of limiting global temperature rises to below 1.5° Celsius rely on the removal of carbon from the atmosphere - ‘negative emissions’. This is NOT carbon trading as it needs to be done AS WELL AS, not instead of emissions cuts in other sectors.
The only scientifically proven way to do this is to protect and restore degraded forests so they become carbon sinks.
Some claim that in the future it could be done through geo-engineering, for instance by burning bioenergy, capturing the carbon released, and pumping it into underground geological reservoirs. This is known as Bioenergy, Carbon, Capture and Storage (BECCS).
Fern believes there are three main risks in relying on geo-engineering projects:
- They are used as an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels despite unproven benefits
- They will have unacceptable ecological and social impacts if used at an industrial scale
- They cannot ensure stored carbon is not released through human or natural forces, including climate change.
Fern is working with ecologists, climate scientists and civil society to ensure restoration projects involve affected communities, take biodiversity into account and are based on sound climate science. This means ensuring that forest restoration is not used as an excuse to lower ambitions to make emissions reductions in other sectors.
Read our report: Going Negative - How carbon sinks could cost the Earth to find out potential solutions to the problems posed by the Paris Agreement's reliance on land-based sinks to stem global warming. Also check out these series of presentations from a seminar attended by key scientists and environmental, development and human rights NGOs: Presentations from negative emissions seminar.