Risks and Opportunities of Large-scale Biosequestration
The explicit reference to "a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases" (Art. 4) in the 2015 Paris agreement has given a strong impetus to Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) proposals that aim to remove greenhouse gas emissions through bioenergy and carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) or large-scale bio-sequestration. While actual implementation of BECCS is still in a state of "infancy" according to the latest IPCC report, large-scale biosequestration in the form of monoculture tree plantations for carbon sequestration and/or bioenergy production is already supported with climate finance, including through the voluntary forest carbon offset market and the Forest Investment Program.
The paper will describe existing trends in the field of large-scale biosequestration and the potential risks, opportunities and impacts of different CDR approaches. Depending on the approach, there could be positive or negative impacts on biodiversity, hydrological flows, land degradation, agrochemical contamination, albedo effects and the Earth System, and social impacts like elite resource capture, land grabbing, rural (un)employment, and gender-specific impacts. The paper will highlight how current trends in climate finance, including the growing emphasis on private sector support, might lead to a prioritization of biosequestration approaches that have significant negative rather than positive impacts.
Oliver Munnion is a bioenergy campaigner and graphic designer with the Global Forest Coalition, and a co-Director of Biofuelwatch.