Wildfire management, emissions and NDCs in the dry tropics

Published on
February 26, 2021

Wildfires burning across the globe, responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to almost half of annual greenhouse gas output in the United States, have triggered concerns about human health and safety, ecosystem stability and the future of life on earth. Against the backdrop of accelerating climate change, there has been an increase in areas at risk of burning, according to recent research. This has important implications for climate change mitigation efforts across the tropics through Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change.

While droughts in recent years have contributed to the spread of fire in the tropics, especially in the dry forests and woodlands of Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, dry tropical forests have been adversely affected by human intervention and policies, especially through the expansion of livestock and agriculture. However, these ecosystems have co-evolved with fire and, in contrast to moist tropical rainforests, are responsive to fire management interventions. Integrated Fire Management (IFM) and the use of prescribed burning can help successfully readjust fire seasonality, manage fuels, preserve ecosystem services and reduce fire emissions.

Annual global fire CO2 emissions average 2.2 Gigatons and represent an important opportunity for GHG abatement, according to scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Fire management is recognized as a natural climate solution, but its mitigation potential and contribution towards NDC targets remain largely under-utilized.

To address these issues, CIFOR-ICRAF, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners will present several examples of how Integrated Fire Management and the use of prescribed burning in the dry tropics have successfully reduced fire emissions. Speakers will link these practices to mitigation potential, their connection with NDCs and analyze the enabling factors that allow emission abatement programs to thrive over the long-term.