Carbon market for natural capital: Forest sink potential from satellite.

 Carbon market for natural capital: Forest sink potential from satellite.
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The removal of vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, as well as drastic cuts in emissions, are essential to avoid dangerous climate change. As a large-scale method of greenhouse gas (GHG) removal, forest climate mitigation strategies: afforestation, reforestation, improved forest management, and avoided forest conversion play a critical role in reducing GHG emissions. Therefore, monitoring and predicting the potential of CO2 removal in both managed and new-planted forests is increasingly important for climate policy and the various actors developing nature-based solutions.

As a globally significant GHG emitter, Japan also pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 which sets Japan on a course to become Carbon Neutral in 30 years. To support this goal, the Japanese government issued the “Japan Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction/Removal Certification Scheme” (J-credit scheme). J-credit created from forests includes CO2 removal by implementing two forest activities: afforestation (AR) and forest management (FM). Meanwhile, aging and depopulation in rural areas and wealth accumulation leaning towards metropolitan areas enhance regional inequality within Japan and lead to unsustainable problems in rural communities. Since rural and mountainous areas are rich in forests, accounting for 60% of the national total forest area, the trading of J-credits generated from forest CO2 removal could increase wealth and be linked with sustainability there.

Concerning sustainability issues, there are two different concepts strong sustainability and weak sustainability. Strong sustainability requires that all major classes of assets are non-declining through time whereas weak sustainability only requires that human well-being is not declining over time. In principle, it is possible to satisfy weak sustainability with declining natural capital (NC) as long as other forms of capital can substitute for natural capital to maintain well-being. Inclusive wealth (IW) is firmly aligned with weak sustainability and offers a better approach to assess sustainability since it provides a comprehensive measurement of stock assets, that are related to the potential intergenerational well-being. Despite Japan having the largest proportion of land area under forests among high-income countries in the world, surprisingly there are very few studies that have assessed the monetary value of Japan’s forest CO2 removal but none of those studies have discussed the link between emission trading and sustainability in the country. Thus, in this work, we predict Japan’s forest CO2 removal potential at a fine spatial scale and to value it in monetary terms by putting it in the context of both the J-credit trading market and the IW framework, for a better understanding of how forest sink will contribute to sustainable development of local communities.

This study contributes to the literature on Japan’s forestry and its potential to remove carbon emissions in three ways: (1) to provide a comprehensive analysis of the CO2 removal potential of Japan’s forest management and afforestation activities, (2) to estimate the CO2 removal potential from forests at a spatial explicit level (pixel- and municipal levels), and (3) to examine the contribution of the forest CO2 removal to sustainable communities in the country. We first reconstructed the forest volume growth and carbon sequestration model with updated regional-specific parameters under the J-credit scheme based on the IPCC Guidelines, and then projected the CO2 removal until 2042 from FM and AR for each prefecture of Japan with the national forest inventory (NFI) data. Secondly, we downscaled the estimation to 100 m—grid level by integrating remote sensing (RS) products, including land cover and biomass data. Thus, we analyzed the temporal trend and spatial heterogeneity of the forest CO2 removal potential across the whole country. Lastly, we elaborated on how the potential of forest CO2 removal will affect sustainable communities by integrating IW measurements with it.

We show the CO2 removal potential of Japan through FM and AR from 2018 to 2042 in Japan. According to our estimate, the yearly potential of CO2 removal by FM and AR as a total will reach the highest around the year 2027 to 2030 in all four categories. After the year 2030, CO2 removal potential will begin to decrease, and it will decline faster in megacities than in other areas. This is due to differences in the carbon sequestration capacity of forests of different ages. Therefore, afforestation increases the proportion of young and fast-growing trees and can offset the decreasing trend of potential from existing forests in later years. In addition to that, the north–south variation is not clear for the monetary value of forest CO2 but the difference in monetary value between urban and rural communities is evident. It indicates that rural local communities have the potential to create new value-added in these cities by FM and AR. We further explored the relationship between forest CO2 removal and sustainability in the IW context. In terms of that, the total NC of Japan in 2017 is estimated at 245.3 billion US dollars; meanwhile, the annual value of forest CO2 removal in the future by 2042 is 16.8 ± 0.89 billion US dollars. In other words, if the CO2 removal value is counted in the forest capital valuation, it will contribute 7% to the annual increase of NC in Japan.

More importantly, with the spatial disaggregation analysis, this study generated important findings regarding the potential of forest CO2 removal and how these potentials link to sustainable community development. Our study highlighted the differences between Japan’s rural and urban communities. Wealth growth is spatially uneven and displays an opposite spatial pattern to forest CO2. IW values in megacities and regional cores are high and still increasing, while many rural communities are unsustainable in terms of IW growth, with much lower IW value. In contrast, rural communities usually have a much higher potential for forest CO2 removal than urban communities. It means that they have an opportunity to increase IW through the market potential of carbon removal, whose value was always ignored or underestimated before. The explicit spatial information of this study could provide valuable information for differentiating policy priorities of forestry planning and sustainable development in different local communities.

 

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Sustainability
Research Communities > Community > Sustainability
Forestry Management
Life Sciences > Biological Sciences > Agriculture > Forestry > Forestry Management
Climate-Change Impacts
Life Sciences > Biological Sciences > Plant Science > Plant Ecology > Climate-Change Impacts

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