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WIREs Clim Change
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Sequestration through forestry and agriculture

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Abstract Current climate mitigation policies have not fully resolved contentious issues regarding the inclusion of carbon sequestration through changes in forestry and agricultural management practices. Terrestrial carbon sinks could be a low‐cost mitigation option that fosters conservation and development, yet issues related to accurately documenting the amount of carbon sequestered undermine confidence that emission offsets through sequestration are equivalent to emission reductions. From an atmospheric perspective, net of CO2 removals through sequestration are equivalent to emission reductions over a given period of time. But carbon will not remain sequestered in biomass or soils indefinitely and investments in sequestration could stifle investments in reducing emissions from other sources. Many international climate agreements cap emissions from some countries or sectors but enable participation of uncapped countries or sectors for forestry and agricultural sequestration. This structure can prompt emission increases in parts of the uncapped entities that weaken the value of emission reductions earned through sequestration. This has been a minor issue under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. Reduced emissions through deforestation and degradation is susceptible to the same problems. The purpose of this article is to review the science, politics, and policy that form the basis of arguments for and against the inclusion forestry and agricultural sequestration as a component of current and future international climate mitigation policies. WIREs Clim Change 2011 2 238–254 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.101 This article is categorized under: The Carbon Economy and Climate Mitigation > Decarbonizing Energy and/or Reducing Demand

Undisturbed ecosystems (dashed gray line) tend toward equilibrium with respect to biomass and soil carbon stocks. Upon natural (solid black line; e.g., fire, drought) or human‐induced (dotted gray line; e.g., deforestation, tillage) disturbance, carbon stocks tend to decline quickly. Carbon stocks will recover as ecosystems recover (solid line), but under recurrent disturbances such as agricultural management, system carbon stocks will reach some equilibrium soil carbon level lower than that of natural systems (dotted gray line). System carbon stocks can be rebuilt by adopting changes in land management practices that eliminate, reduce, or delay disturbance. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 20. Copyright 1999 CRC Press)

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Annual emission growth rates (percent per year) as a function of (a) Land use change and forestry (LUCF)‐sector emissions as a percentage of total non‐LUCF emissions and (b) annual LUCF‐sector growth rates. Positive numbers for LUCF‐sector emissions as a percentage of total emissions (a) indicate net carbon loss from LUCF.

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Emissions and sequestration in the Land Use/Land Use Change sectors from 1994 for Annex I and non‐Annex I countries contrasted with carbon sequestration potential in 2030 through agricultural4 and forestry practices5 and reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).5

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