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25 September 2017
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Project on Russian Forests

Russia, as many other countries, is vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change. The IPCC Forth
Assessment Report (2007) provides that in 1970-2004 the temperature rose by 0.2-1.00C in the Eastern part
of Russia, and 1.0-2.00C in the largest part of Siberia and Far East. According to the Assessment Report by
Roshydromet (2009), since 1976 the annual average temperature has been rising by 0.520C per decade, and
the regional observations show continuing warming trends, especially in the Eastern Siberia, Baikal region,
and the Russian Far East. Impacts of such warming are extremely dangerous. Besides the socio-economic
impacts, climate change creates high risks for our natural heritage. A recent report by UNESCO showed
that 26 objects of world heritage may be severely affected by climate change in the near future.
In this project we will work in the following regions neighbouring the UNESCO World Heritage sites
and centers of biodiversity in Russia:

- Irkutsk region and Buryatia: Lake Baikal is included in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1996.
Baikal has 20% of global fresh water reserves and diverse flora and fauna (2630 species, 80% of which are
endemic). In 2008 the US NCEAS’s study discovered high risks to Baikal from climate change. The
regions neighbouring Lake Baikal (Irkutsk and Buryatia regions) have huge potential for climate change
adaptation and mitigation activities, specifically in forest sector, which would help Lake Baikal to survive.

- Altai region: The Altai Golden Mountains have been on UNESCO’s list of sites since 1998. They
cover 1,5 million ha, including diverse ecosystems (forest, tundra, steppe, semi-desert, lakes, etc.). There
are many endemic species in Altai. Climate change substantially affects this region by changing animal
migration activities, reducing their food base, expanding areas of semi-deserts, changing the forest areas,
etc. The impacts of climate change have already been observed in the region: in last 3 decades the
temperature rose by 0,80C; annual average wind speed increased, the cases of extreme snow falls increased,
etc. Improved forest management and reforestation are key to protecting Altai’s ecosystems.

- Kamchatka: Kamchatka volcanoes cover an area of 3,7 million hectares. They have the status of
State Biosphere National Park and protected area and included in the UNESCO World Heritage site since
1996. The area includes 330 volcanoes, lakes and forest with unique biodiversity. Climate change, forest
fires, timber logging and other impacts put significant risks to the area. In the recent decades huge areas of
forest were destroyed for timber logging (including illegal harvesting), and no reforestation occurred at all.

- Sakhalin: Sakhalin island has extensive forest coverage of 5,5 million hectares (about 80% of the
island territory). Sakhalin has unique biodiversity with numerous endemic species. Regional forests are
extremely vulnerable to climate change, the area of forest fires has substantially increased in the last
several decades. In 2008 the forest fires burned 40,000 ha. The increasing pressure of anthropogenic and
natural is risky for local forests and ecosystems.

Adoption of the Russian Climate Doctrine (Dec. 2009) provides political and legal basis for integration
of climate change concerns into policy making on all levels, in-depth consideration of adaptation needs and
mitigation opportunities in near- and longer-term time horizons. In this context, regional strategies of
economic development, use of energy resources, and forest management require a sound analytical basis in
climate change adaptation and reduction of risks and damage posed by its negative impacts, as well as
mitigation projects and programs. In the case of forestry, both adaptation and mitigation challenges can be
considered. Afforestation programs in former agricultural areas or reforestation projects bring diverse
benefits, including reduction of soil degradation, protection of watersheds, biodiversity conservation,
improvement of local air quality, and absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forestry also
provides biofuel resources that can substitute fossil fuels to large extent, but they are mostly wasted in the
Siberia and the Russian Far East nowadays. Russia utilize about 50 million cubic m of wood fuel (3,5 times
less than North America), which is below 5% of total potential for forest-related biofuel.

In the project we will focus on adaptation needs and mitigation opportunities in the forest sector.
Russian forests cover about 900 million hectares and hold 25% of the world’s stock of timber. The overall
carbon stock in Russian forests exceeds 1,7 billion t CO2 with annual absorption of about 600 million t
CO2. The majority of forests is located in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Evidently, Russian forests play
a very important role in the global climate system, it is extremely important for local people, indogenous
people, regional economy, environment, and ecosystems. Complex use of forest resources can provide
timber, non-timber values, biofuel as substitute of fossil fuels, ecological services, and so on. But Russian
forests are vulnerable to climate change and non-sustainable forest use, issued that require the development
of comprehensive policies and measures to protect them.

Finding effective solutions for forest management in Russia requires practical knowledge. The NGO
CEI’s specialists and partners have substantial experience in the development and implementation of
forestry projects, for example, a pilot project on planting forest belts in Voronezh, afforestation projects in
Altai and Irkutsk, inventory of forest-based carbon sinks in various Russian regions, pilot projects on fuel
switch from coal to wood-waste in Novgorod, Sakhalin, Novosibirsk regions. In this practical work we
faced barriers and opportunities for improving forest management and planting.

Russian regions have diverse problems in their forest sectors. For instance, over 12 mln ha of degraded
agricultural land is covered by forests, absorbing over 100 mln t CO2 per annum, but this is unmanaged
forest, with high risks of forest fires or damage caused by local residents, etc. Another challenge deals with
planting forest belts in agricultural areas, which sequester carbon and at the same time prevent soil erosion,
land degradation, provide watershed protection, biodiversity conservation, etc. But the land owners do not
manage the forest belts and even destroy them for short-term economic benefits. Forest belts can be planted
on dozens of millions of ha in agricultural regions, including Altai Krai. Other regions, such as Kamchatka,
face another practical problem: large areas of forest have been logged but never replanted. While there is
huge potential for reforestation, demand for jobs in far-away communities, land degradation, loss of
biodiversity, the policy making is quite weak. Implementation of biofuel projects showed its extremely
high effectiveness: in Sakhalin modernization of municipal boiler house and combined use of woodwaste
and coal allowed to reduce energy consumption by 65%.

Realizing the importance of on-the-ground testing of the feasibility of the methodological and
theoretical results of our project, we will do substantial practical work: we will invest our own resources
into demonstration projects on forest planting and management as well as the complex use of forest
resources in selected regions. We will plant and improve forest management of 500-1000 ha and invest in 3
pilot small-scale fuel switch projects in municipal heating to deeply understand and overcome the existing
barriers, legal challenges, existing poor practices and skills, etc. Through this we will provide jobs to local
population, including indigenous people where possible.

 

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