Mitigation of climate change impacts

Climate change is one of the most complex issues that is facing us today. It is felt at all scales, local to global, and will be around for decades and centuries to come.

The emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are recognised to contribute to almost all anthropogenic climate warming. Carbon dioxide is the most prominent greenhouse gas that traps solar heat and warms the global climate.

How do forests relate to mitigation?

Forests have an innate ability to regenerate and adapt to damages, disturbances and weather impacts.

Adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects, see the Climate-Adapt platform on adapting to climate change.

However, climate change magnifies these pressures (see vitality section) by causing more frequent insect outbreaks and more frequent droughts and storms. Land-use change and fragmentation impedes the connectivity of European forests, also hindering natural processes of forest adaptation. This has huge economic consequences but also affects air quality, water quality, biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Climate change is one of the most complex issues that is facing us today. It is felt at all scales, local to global, and will be around for decades and centuries to come.

The emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are recognised to contribute to almost all anthropogenic climate warming. Carbon dioxide is the most prominent greenhouse gas that traps solar heat and warms the global climate.

Forests have an innate ability to regenerate and adapt to damages, disturbances and weather impacts. However, climate change magnifies these pressures (see vitality section) by causing more frequent insect outbreaks and more frequent droughts and storms. Land-use change and fragmentation impedes the connectivity of European forests, also hindering natural processes of forest adaptation. This has huge economic consequences but also affects air quality, water quality, biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Responding to climate change involves two possible approaches:

Mitigation: reducing sources of greenhouse gases (for example, the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport) or enhancing the sinks that accumulate and store greenhouse gases (such as the oceans, forests and soil).


Adaptation: The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects, see the Climate-Adapt platform on adapting to climate change.

Forest ecosystems play a significant role in regulating atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration. In forested ecosystems, carbon accumulates through the absorption of atmospheric CO2 and its assimilation into biomass. Carbon is stored in various pools in a forest ecosystem: above- and below-ground living biomass, including the stem (45-55%), the branches and leaves (10-30%), and roots (25-35%); likewise, carbon is stored in litter, deadwood, soil organic matter and harvested forest products. About 50% of the dry weight of trees is carbon.

Europe's forests are an essential carbon stock. The emissions of greenhouse gases from forests vary depending on vegetation and changing the cycles of nitrogen and carbon and microbial activity. EU forests take up currently around 10% of the total EU emissions.

Forests store and accumulate large amounts of carbon in the trees and in the soil as they remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Some carbon is emitted back into the air from decaying trees. Forest fires and other disturbances cause rapid and large emissions of CO2, as well as methane and nitrous oxide.

TOTAL EMISSIONS CO2-EQ IN EU27 IN 2019

TOTAL CARBON STOCK IN WORLD'S FORESTS IN 2020

TOTAL CARBON STOCK IN EU27'S FORESTS IN 2020

Other actions

Below you find relevant links to EEA and other Information resources relevant for Forests and climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation: