Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth’s land area and represent a lifeline for the people and the planet. Forests are essential to mankind as well as to 80 percent of the Earh’s land-based animal, plant and insect species inhabiting them. Forests also provide a variety of ecosystem services that give people shelter, clean air and water. In addition, they absorb and retain carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The abilities forests have are truly impressive, from regulating the climate, preventing land degradation, reducing the risk of floods, landslides and avalanches, to protecting people from droughts and dust storms. It is estimated that 21 percent of the global population (more than 1.6 billion people) rely on forests for their livelihoods.
Several decades of human activities leading to deforestation and forest degradation have contributed enormously to climate change, producing around a fifth of the global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, approximately 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, one-third of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels, is absorbed by forests every year. There is a role for forests therefore in addressing climate change.
In Kazakhstan, forests cover 4.6 percent of the country or around 12.5 million hectares with a total carbon sequestration of 718.3 million tons of CO2 equivalent in 2016.
Following Kazakhstan’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030 under the commitment to the Paris Agreement, UNDP, the Government of Kazakhstan and Bitfury, a leading blockchain company, signed a non-financial trilateral agreement to reduce the carbon footprint produced by Bitfury's electricity suppliers by preserving existing forests and creating new forest stands. As part of this initiative, an inventory was carried out of the mountain forests in East Kazakhstan, which had not been accounted for. Satellite images and aerial photographs were used to identify forests and the species living there. As a result of this research, more than 67 thousand hectares of previously unaccounted mountain forest areas were identified and calculated that these forests had been able to absorb around 6 million tons of CO2 equivalent over the past 30 years.
Other forest protection activities carried out by UNDP Kazakhstan are supported from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Globally, UNDP-GEF partnership supports 69 countries in safeguarding forest biodiversity and ecosystems, with financing exceeding US$449 million. In Kazakhstan, under the UNDP-GEF partnership, the efforts are focused around prevention of deforestation and forest degradation, protection from fires, through skills development and deployment of modern technologies for monitoring and risk assessment of natural and anthropogenic threats.
Over the past few years the measures taken to protect the forests in Kazakhstan have already brought results and the focus now will be on incorporating the know-how into long-term strategies in order to protect and accelerate the well-being of forest ecosystems. If we manage them sustainably, keeping them healthy and giving them a chance for a natural renewable process, they will keep providing vital good and services for people and the planet.