Applying a systems approach to assess carbon emission reductions from climate change mitigation in Mexico’s forest sector

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Mexico was the first Non-Annex I country to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) and its Climate Change Mid-Century Strategy in accordance with the Paris Agreement of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since 2012, the Mexican government through its National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), with support from the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the Forest Services of Canada and USA, the USA SilvaCarbon Program and research institutes in Mexico, has made important progress towards the use of carbon dynamics models to explore climate change mitigation options in the forest sector. Following a systems approach, here we assess the biophysical mitigation potential of forest ecosystems, harvested wood products and substitution benefits, for policy alternatives identified by the Mexican Government (e.g. net zero deforestation rate, sustainable forest management). We provide key messages and results derived from the use of available analytical frameworks (Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector and a harvested wood products model), parameterized with local input data in two contrasting states within Mexico. Using information from the National Forest Monitoring System (e.g. forest inventories, remote sensing, disturbance data), we demonstrate that activities aimed at reaching a net-zero deforestation rate can yield significant CO2e mitigation benefits by 2030 and 2050 relative to a baseline scenario (“business as usual”), but, if combined with increasing forest harvest to produce long-lived products and substitute more energy-intensive materials, emissions reductions, could also provide other co-benefits (e.g. jobs, reduction in illegal logging). The relative impact of mitigation activities is locally dependent, suggesting that mitigation strategies should be designed and implemented at sub-national scales. Thus, the ultimate goal of this tri-national effort is to develop data and tools for carbon assessment in strategic landscapes in North America, emphasizing the need to include multiple sectors and types of collaborators (scientific and policy-maker communities) to design more comprehensive portfolios for climate change mitigation.
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