Mongolia’s boreal forests are part of the world’s largest land-based carbon sink, stretching across the Northern Hemisphere and supporting the livelihoods of local people, including many nomadic communities. The boreal forests, together with the country’s unique saxaul forest, cover about 12% of the country’s surface area.
Mongolia, the first non-tropical country to join the UN-REDD Programme, is a low emitter of greenhouse gases, but is disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of climate change. Over the past two decades, temperatures have been rising at three times the average annual global rate, leading to hotter summers, drought, advancing desertification and melting permafrost. These changes have led to the degradation of forests and grassland ecosystems on which nomadic livelihoods depend. In addition, the release of carbon stocks in thawed permafrost could significantly increase the net emissions of the country’s greenhouse gases.
While deforestation rates are low, Mongolia’s huge scale and small population mean that emissions from forest degradation are hard to address. On average, over 140,000 hectares of boreal forest is affected each year by fires and insect pests.
With support of the UN-REDD Programme, the country is developing a national forest and climate change strategy focused on the promotion of sustainable forest management and the role of forests in achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Together with national partners including the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Forest Research Development Centre and the Climate Change Project Implementation Unit, the UN-REDD Programme has conducted a series of technical workshops and advisory services to prepare a national Forest Reference Level (FRL). The FRL was submitted to the UNFCCC in January, 2018 and technical staff from national institutions are currently working with UNFCCC experts on a technical assessment of the submission, with a view to revising and improving the data and conclusions.
“The FRL is not only a benchmark document,” says Sanna Enkhtaivan, GHG Inventory Specialist with Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism. “But it is also a starting line for us to protect, manage and enhance the carbon storage in our forests.”
Safeguarding forests can help the country meets its Sustainable Development Goals by putting climate change measures into national policies and plans, creating business opportunities for sustainable forest management, improving climate change awareness and mobilizing finance for mitigation.