The world’s climate patterns have always been highly dynamic. However, recent decades, reveal new patterns, indicating more rapid changes than has been seen for thousands of years. These changes have been linked to equally rapid changes in atmospheric concentration of gases, and the release of "greenhouse gases" by human activities. These gases include oxides of carbon, methane, nitrous oxides and oxides of sulfur. These gases are dealt under the UNFCCC, while other proven gases that deplete the ozone like Chloro-Floro-Carbons (CFCs), bromides and other halogens are covered under the Montreal Protocol for Substances that deplete ozone. While a lot of progress has been made in eliminating the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), efforts are under way to limit the use of the gases covered under the UNFCCC.
Climate change is likely to have considerable impacts on most or all ecosystems. The distribution patterns of many species and communities are determined to a large part by climatic parameters, globally there is a consensus that the predicted climate changes will effect the whole distribution and dynamics of biodiversity at many levels. It may be possible for species to migrate in response to changing conditions. Vegetation zones may move towards higher latitudes or higher altitudes following shifts in average temperatures. Rainfall and drought will also be of critical importance. Extreme flooding will have implications for large areas, especially riverine and valley ecosystems. Changes in seasons are already being noticed in many temperate regions. Many birds are being reported earlier and spring flowers are emerging when it was once winter. In agricultural landscapes changes in the length of growing seasons may improve productivity in mid-latitudes and increase the potential for arable crops at high latitudes. Negative impacts may include increased ranges of insect pests and diseases, and failure of crops in some regions from drought or flooding. Rising sea temperatures will further affect the distribution and survival of particular marine resources. Corals have already shown an extremely high sensitivity to minor increases in temperature. In addition to causing a warming effect, increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide is known to increase the rate of photosynthesis in many plants. In this way the climate changes may increase growth rates in some natural and agricultural communities. International efforts are being focused towards reducing the amounts of gas emissions, however climate change has already begun, and the impacts will increase considerably over coming decades.
Global biodiversity is under particular risk: habitat loss, pollution and over-exploitation, species and natural systems are now faced with the need to adapt to new regimes of temperature, precipitation and other climatic extremes. Nature conservation has difficult challenges to face that are increasing day by day.
A milestone in the global climate change negotiations is the signing of the Kyoto Protocol adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 and it has been ratified by Pakistan on 11th January, 2005. The protocol sets quantifiable emission reduction targets. Developed countries agreed to reduce their combined green house gases (GHGs) emissions by 5.2% below the 1990 level during the period 2008-2012. It introduces market based flexible mechanisms for the emissions reduction, clean development Mechanism (CDM) for example.
Kyoto Protocol is the comprehensive agreement under UNFCCC which is purely based on market-based mechanisms on Green House Gases trading between developed and developing countries. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), under the Protocol, is the most promising mechanism that is built on the principle of least cost abatement of carbon. It implies that costs of controlling carbon in developing countries are far less than the costs in developed countries. Under CDM, developed countries can cost-effectively meet their obligations to control carbon by purchasing carbon emissions referred as CERs (Certified Emission Reduction). The unit of a CER is ton of carbon dioxide equivalent. The underlying rationale is that forest trees act as carbon dumps by trapping carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into wood so free carbon is no more available in the atmosphere; this decreases the overall carbon concentration from the global atmosphere. The trading in CERs in the year 2006 was for 3 billion US $ while the market size is expected to increase to 100 billion US $ by 2012. Most of the trading in CERs done so far is on energy conservation, alternate energy (wind/solar/hydel), solid waste management etc.
There are many alternate options to invest in carbon sequestration activities. For example, some parties in developing countries (both from public or private sector) can get into a pre-project agreement with investors in developed countries (both from public and private sectors). In this case, carbon credits are directly accrued to the investors. Alternatively, if there are no investors available in hand, developing countries can finance in these projects themselves. The World Bank has also started its Prototype Carbon Fund to catalyze CERs trading in developing countries. The carbon credits earned this way are registered and saved with the CDM Executive Board (EB). These credits are marketable commodity and can be sold to any buyer who offers good price. For any CDM project, registration with the Executive Board is a mandatory requirement. Since CDM projects are based on carbon quantification, an independent validation by the Designated Operational Entity DOE is essential. These DOEs are consultancies accredited by the CDM Executive Board.
Scope of Forests and Agriculture in Climate Change Mitigation
Forests and trees have woody biomass which is composed of carbohydrates, synthesized from carbon dioxide and water. Therefore, forests are termed as “sinks” of carbon. Although expansion of carbon sinks has been identified as an important measure in the Convention and Kyoto Protocol, yet CDM projects in Forestry sector could not be developed and implemented in any part of the world mainly due to the reasons that methodologies were not finalized, and lack of capacities to develop CDM projects in forestry. The major problem in CDM forestry projects is that under the CDM there is a major paradigm shift in forestry related definitions that the traditional foresters find difficult to accept. However most of the uncertainties are now clear and it is time that Pakistan includes carbon credits as a source of earning foreign exchange.