New Publication: FLINT-based GCBM used for forest-sector mitigation analysis

The Generic Carbon Budget Model (GCBM) which uses the Carbon Budget Model science modules from the Canadian Forest Service on top of the FLINT platform, was used to generate forest sector based climate change mitigation analyses for British Columbia, Canada. The spatially-explicit scenarios covered 55 million Ha of forest at a 1 ha resolution. The paper was published in Carbon Balance and Management (volume 15, Article number: 21 (2020))

The potential contributions from forest-based greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation actions need to be quantified to develop pathways towards net negative emissions. Here we present results from a comparative analysis that examined mitigation options for British Columbia’s forest sector. Mitigation scenarios were evaluated using a systems perspective that takes into account the changes in emissions and removals in forest ecosystems, in harvested wood product (HWP) carbon stocks, and in other sectors where wood products substitute for emission-intensive materials and fossil fuels. All mitigation activities were assessed relative to a forward-looking ‘business as usual’ baseline for three implementation levels. In addition to quantifying net GHG emission reductions, we assessed economic, and socio-economic impacts as well as other environmental indicators relating to forest species, age class, deadwood availability and future timber supply. We further considered risks of reversal for land-based scenarios, by assessing impacts of increasing future wildfires on stands that were not harvested.

Our spatially explicit analyses of forest sector mitigation options demonstrated a cost-effective portfolio of regionally differentiated scenarios that directed more of the harvested wood to longer-lived wood products, stopped burning of harvest residues and instead produced bioenergy to displace fossil fuel burning, and reduced harvest levels in regions with low disturbance rates. Domestically, net GHG emissions were reduced by an average of -9 MtCO2e year−1 over 2020–2050 for a portfolio of mitigation activities at a default implementation level, with about 85% of the GHG emission reductions achieved below a cost of $50/tCO2e. Normalizing the net GHG reduction by changes in harvested wood levels permitted comparisons of the scenarios with different ambition levels, and showed that a 1 MtCO2 increase in cumulative harvested stemwood results in a 1 MtCO2e reduction in cumulative emissions, relative to the baseline, for the Higher Recovery scenario in 2070.

The analyses conducted in this study contribute to the global understanding of forest sector mitigation options by providing an integrated framework to synthesize the methods, assumptions, datasets and models needed to quantify mitigation activities using a systems approach. An understanding of economically feasible and socio-economically attractive mitigation scenarios along with trade offs for environmental indicators relating to species composition and age, helps decision makers with long-term planning for land sector contributions to GHG emission reduction efforts, and provides valuable information for stakeholder consultations.