Climate change mitigation through reduced-impact logging: a framework approach
Galante, Michael Victor
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The implementation of reduced-impact logging (RIL) in Sabah is recognised in the literature as an activity to reduce the environmental impact of timber harvest activities, thus reducing carbon entering the atmosphere. With the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, modalities for its application as a project-based activity under the Climate Convention have yet to be developed. Investigations on both, its potential to reduce carbon from being released into the atmosphere in Sabah, specifically, and its modalities as a project-based activity under the Climate Convention in Malaysia, broadly, are warranted. This thesis addresses a set of research questions related to modalities for its inclusion under the Climate Convention, temporal and spatial responses of the forest after its implementation, to the investigation of activity-specific modalities, and their effectiveness, and its associated finance under the Climate Convention in Malaysia. The improvement of the forest activities under the Climate Convention are conceptualised through the Hierarchy of Production Forest Management (HoPFM), i.e., a modular framework defining the progression of the forest industry through demonstrable benefits. The conceptual framework begins from the basic legal and regulatory frameworks that govern forest management activities, towards sustainable forest management as the ideology of the Framework, designed to recognise both local, and global, approaches to forest management, while highlighting the need for balanced considerations of environmental, social and economic values. Through the Framework, the components of RIL in Sabah are discussed, relative to the modalities of the Climate Convention. Since he inception of the GIZ programme to improve forest management systems in the Deramakot forest reserve, there has been limited research on its recovery after RIL activities. Data on aboveground alive tree biomass and deadwood necromass was collected, and tested against 'harvest intensity', and 'time since harvest', to assess the temporal and spatial variability of forest responses, both within diameter classes, and major functional species classes of 'dipterocarp' and 'non-dipterocarp'. It was identified that 'harvest intensity' was found to be affecting forest recovery, relative to 'time since harvest', which was similarly identified for 'dipterocarp' species, relative to 'non-dipterocarp', respectively. The few significant changes detected indicate that long-term periods of analysis are required to identify consistent trends over-time. Since the mandate of the RIL policy in Sabah, conventional harvest activities are no longer eligible to be practiced in commercial production reserves. Therefore, to measure changes in carbon between the practices under the Climate Convention, a baseline needs to be developed, where conventional harvest activities were historically, the only form of harvest practice. An analysis of the literature was undertaken to estimate the difference between the practices, whereby broad impact classes of ‘infrastructure created’, and ‘harvest damage’, were identified. In its application, the ‘crediting’ approach is applied, whereby a benchmark is set, counterfactually, to estimate carbon that would be released without RIL activities. A number of carbon reductions are withheld from issuance into the market, to create a buffer between actually and potential issuance. The approach is conservative, to account for changes in policy and project-based circumstances, which may impact the number of carbon reductions issued in a project timeframe. RIL is currently implemented in the commercial production reserves, however it its effectiveness to reduce carbon from entering the atmosphere under the Climate Convention in Malaysia is unclear. Representing extremes along a range of anthropogenic disturbance through RIL activities, data from RIL activities was collected in a lower montaine forest harvested once, and a lowland forest, harvested multiple times. Both areas were tested against the carbon baseline, to represent conventional harvest practices in Sabah. The estimates were comparable to literature values, with RIL activities found to reduce carbon from entering the atmosphere. The variability in the accumulation of carbon stocks of aboveground alive tree biomass was identified as an important consideration in the trends observed. The condition of the forest at the time of harvest, i.e., primary or severely degraded logged-over forest, was found to impact carbon stocks immediately after harvest and the rate of carbon accumulation over time. The variability of the result supports the concept of conservativeness, as advocated for project-based activities, under the Climate Convention. As a signatory Party, Malaysia is developing the necessary institutional infrastructure to facilitate project-based activities under the Climate Convention. Investigating RIL as a nationally appropriate mitigation action is undertaken, where distinctions are made between its integration at the national level, and its implementation at the sub-national level. Drawing on experiences from Sabah, implementing RIL as a project-based activity under the Climate Convention is broadly applicable to all States in Malaysia, whereby monitoring, reporting and verification at the sub-national level may be implemented through the existing domestic forest certification standard in Malaysia. At the current price of carbon over a 35-year harvest cycle, RIL is estimated to be approximately at the break-even price for its implementation in Sabah. Relative to the cost of restoring severely degraded forests harvested through conventional practices in Sabah, implementing RIL is financially viable. The knowledge gained by investigating RIL as a sub-national approach may be useful to assist Malaysia to meet their intended national emission reduction targets under the Climate Convention. This thesis aims to improve our knowledge of the application of RIL in logged-over forest of Sabah, and its applicability as a project-based activity under the Climate Convention in Malaysia. Several research questions were raised, to contextualise the modalities of RIL in Sabah and the institutional framework in Malaysia, relative to the architecture of the Climate Convention. It highlights the need for a systematic approach to gather observations on forest carbon dynamics and their integration into larger carbon accounting frameworks, to improve our understanding of the potential of RIL to contribute to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere from the forest sector.