Expert Panel on Adaptation of Forests to Climate Change 2009


Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change
A global assessment report

Policy makers stated repeatedly a need for more complete scientific information on the ecological, social and economic impacts of climate change on forests and people to support management and policy decisions. Accordingly, adaptation of forests to climate change became the subject of the first scientific assessment of the GFEP initiative. An Expert Panel on Adaptation of Forests to Climate Change was formed in late 2007 to carry out an assessment report. Their voluntary collaboration resulted in a most comprehensive assessment regarding i) the interrelations among forest ecosystems, the services they provide, and climate change, ii) the past and future impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems and the people that depend on these ecosystems, and iii) management and policy options for adaptation.

The assessment report was published in 2009 and formally presented at the 8th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) taking place 20 April - 1 May 2009 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

Full Report

For hardcopies of the global assessment report on "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment Report." please write to office(at)



Policy Brief

Making  forests fit for climate change A global view of Climate-Change impacts on forests and people for adaptation

This policy brief summarizes the key messages of the GFEP report "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A global assessment report" and reaches out to international as well as national policymakers and other stakeholders.

The following key messages are highlighted:

  • Climate change over the past half-century has already affected forest ecosystems and will have increasing effects on them in the future. The carbon regulating services of forests are at risk of being lost entirely unless current carbon emissions are reduced substantially; this would result in the release of huge quantities of carbon to the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.
  • Climate change can increase the supply of timber in some regions although there will be considerable temporal variations.
  • The impacts of climate change on forest goods and services will have far-reaching social and economic consequences for forest-dependent people, particularly the forest dependent poor. Adaptation measures must go beyond single technical solutions and address also the human-institutional dimensions of the problem.
  • Sustainable forest management is essential for reducing the vulnerability of forests to climate change. The current failure to implement it limits the capacity of forests and forest-dependent people to adapt to climate change. To meet the challenges of adaptation, commitment to achieving the goals of sustainable forest management must be strengthened at both the international and national levels.
  • There is no universally applicable measure for adapting forests to climate change. Forest managers should, therefore, have sufficient flexibility to deploy the adaptation measures most appropriate for their local situations.
  • Flexible approaches to policy design are needed that are sensitive to context and do not rely on a single, one-size-fits-all mechanism. New modes of governance are required that enable meaningful stakeholder participation and provide secure land tenure and forest user rights and sufficient financial incentives.
  • More research is required to reduce current uncertainties about the climate-change impacts on forests and people and to improve knowledge about management and policy measures for adaptation. Nevertheless, despite the limitations of current knowledge, climate change is progressing too quickly to postpone adaptation action pending the outcomes of future studies.
  • Even if adaptation measures are fully implemented, unmitigated climate change would, during the course of the current century, exceed the adaptive capacity of many forests. Large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation are needed to ensure that forests retain their mitigative and adaptive capacities.

Policy Brief

The Panel provided also a policy brief "Making forests fit for climate change" to ease the formulation of effective policies and management options for the adaptation of forests and the forest sector to climate change.


Regional Policy Brief for Africa

Making African Forests Fit for Climate Change: