Boosting natural systems to mitigate climate change

All 1.5°C global warming scenarios call for carbon removal. Natural systems provide the most readily available mechanisms, so how can these be boosted to the levels required?
Reforestation in Yangambi, DRC. Forests suffered during the country's devastating wars, damaged by unregulated hunting, livestock grazing, logging, and massive refugee camps. Yangambi in the Congo River Basin is extremely rich in biodiversity and has been given protected status by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve - an area that demonstrates a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere. © Axel Fassio/CIFOR

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The more we delay reduction in CO2 emissions, the more we will need carbon removals after 2050 to return warming to 1.5°C. Through photosynthesis and respiration, terrestrial ecosystems currently remove more carbon than they emit, leading to a net sink at the global scale. However, in some regions, recent climate change has already shifted ecosystems to being net emitters of carbon.

The world needs to rapidly reduce emissions from all sectors to avoid large temperature increases that could undermine the ability of natural ecosystems to absorb more carbon than they release, thus reinforcing climate change. Preventing agricultural expansion to carbon-rich natural ecosystems and ecosystem restoration can be critical levers for removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Aline Mosnier, Scientific Director, FABLE Consortium, builds the case to protect and restore natural ecosystems for climate mitigation.