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Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change on Forest Fires and Identifying Options for Resilience

Program Summary

The development objective of this activity is to increase knowledge and awareness about the impacts of forest fires in a changing climate and identify effective response strategies and actions to build the resilience of forests and communities.

Challenge

Forest fires degrade forest ecosystems and impair on their capacity to serve global development and poverty reduction objectives. Substantial and rapid shifts are projected for future fire activity across vast portions of the globe, including tropical and subtropical regions. Projections suggest that wildfires will become so frequent within this century that it will reach a “new normal.” Therefore, it is important to develop a better understanding of the interactions between climate change and forest fires in terms of their scale and intensity and identify forest management options for increased resilience. This activity aims to contribute toward filling this knowledge gap by taking stock of the state of knowledge on the key issues. Several studies have already been conducted by PROFOR and other teams at the Bank to highlight the importance of preventing and managing forest fires. This activity will build on the previous work and deepen the understanding of these impacts and the type and scale of investments required to tackle this challenge.

Approach

As the main activity, a Global Expert Workshop on Forest Fires and Climate Change would be held at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) headquarters in June 2018 in Vienna, Austria. The expert workshop would be co-hosted by IUFRO and PROFOR. It would bring together leading scientific experts; government representatives from key countries in East Asia, Africa, and Latin America; and representatives from World Bank global practices and regional units.

The expert workshop would discuss (i) the spectrum of forest fire types and their contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions; (ii) future climate change scenarios and implications for forest fire as well as related environmental, social, and economic impacts and vulnerabilities; and (iii) options for adaptation with particular emphasis on forest landscape restoration as a forest-smart solution for increasing resilience in the face of climate change. The expert workshop would also be informed of relevant findings of the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) scientific assessment on forests and water, coordinated by IUFRO on behalf of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

The expert workshop would result in an issue paper that comprised all the information presented during the workshop, including the main findings and conclusions, as well as a set of key messages for decision makers. The expert workshop would also identify limitations in current knowledge and outline potential future activities.

Results

The Global Expert Workshop on Forest Fires and Climate Change was conducted July 2-4 in Vienna, Austria.

The three-day workshop brought together 32 scientists and governmental experts from around the globe and World Bank representatives to discuss the complex forest fire–climate change–restoration nexus.

The expert group concluded that fire and climate-related weather changes are strongly linked, leading to more severe fire events, and that there is a need to prepare for a “new normal” in which fires will occur outside the traditional fire seasons and risk zones, including agricultural areas. Government strategies will need to take on a different approach to effectively manage forest landscapes because this trend will only get worse.

The solution lies increasingly in more holistic land management and governance approaches including more active investments in fire prevention measures, fire-smart economic land uses, better informed and connected fire information and early warning systems, and community-based education, training, and mitigation activities in addition to traditional suppression measures.

Where tropical forests or peatlands already suffered substantial alterations, the workshop concluded that there is a need to think beyond those solutions. Restoration of ecological functions of degraded forests and peatlands, investment in fire-free perennial economic solutions in risk areas and strategic economic land uses will need to be an integral part of interventions.

Some of the presentations at the workshop, include knowledge that has informed, is informing, and will continue to inform policies, projects/ programs and data gathering/information/modelling globally.   

The main intention of the upcoming Policy Paper is to promote the uptake of available knowledge with the identified audiences.

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Last Updated : 06-10-2019

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