Public Policy and Economics
Woods Hole Research Center Contributes Both Scientific and Policy Insights on REDD at COP 13
As UNFCCC negotiations move towards a powerful new mechanism for compensating tropical countries for their nation-wide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), several important questions remain: How much will REDD cost? Will it benefit forest people? Is it possible to monitor forests when so many countries are chronically covered with clouds? These and other questions are the topics addressed in four new studies released by the Woods Hole Research Center at the 13th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP-13) in Bali, Indonesia.
The REDD issue is also the focus of three other reports that other organizations released at Bali but that WHRC scientists co-authored. And it is the focus of the Brazil component of still another WHRC report released at the Bali meeting, summarizing work sponsored at the Center and partner institutions on "win-win" opportunities for climate-change mitigation in Brazil, China, and India. The China component of this work addresses opportunities for reducing emissions for coal-burning power plants and from automobiles in that country; the India component of the work likewise addresses emissions from coal-burning power plants, as well as improved biomass-energy technologies and measures to improve transmission and end-use efficiencies in the Indian electricity sector.
In "The Costs and Benefits of Reducing Carbon Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in the Brazilian Amazon," prepared by the Center, the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental, and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, one of the region's with the world's largest carbon emission is evaluated. Economic models of potential profits from the expansion of soybeans, cattle, and logging are used to estimate the opportunity costs of bringing deforestation to zero over a ten year period. These economic analyses are compared with a cost accounting of what it would take for Brazil to achieve this deforestation reduction through compensation of forest people, private land forest stewards, and greater institutional capacity to govern the vast Amazon forest region. More than 90 percent of the opportunity costs of forest maintenance could be compensated for a per-ton carbon value of $3, while actually achieving the reduction would be much cheaper: about $1.2 per ton. In the proposed program, all of the region's forest people would double their incomes, and $10 to 80 million per year in fire-related damages would be avoided. These results show that REDD programs will bring substantial benefits to tropical countries that need to be included in evaluations of the economics.
Democratic Republic of the Congo Report:
In "Reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," prepared by the Center and the Ministry of the Environment Nature Conservation and Tourism of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a very different forest is analyzed. CO2 emissions from the DRC are low (0.22 Pg/y = for the 1990-2000) period and driven primarily by small-scale farmers, but emissions could escalate rapidly in the future as political stability opens the door to foreign investments and migration. A nationwide assessment of forest carbon stocks and farm family density provides the basis for preliminary estimates of the costs of cutting deforestation by half. When semi-subsistence farmers clear a half-hectare of forest each year to grow the crops that sustain their families, the costs of slowing deforestation must provide for alternative incomes. However, investments in the management of the timber concession program could provide an important economic incentive to maintain forests standing while generating important revenues.
Interactive maps produced for the Democratic Republic of the Congo report are also available from the WHRC website (opens in new window).
In "New Eyes in the Sky: Cloud-Free Tropical Forest Monitoring for REDD with the Japanese Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS)," the WHRC in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ( JAXA) presents startling results of the new ALOS radar sensor. From ALOS, high-resolution (20 m ) mosaics of radar images can be assembled for very large areas of forests anywhere in the world. Two pilot project areas include a 400,000 km2-region in the southeastern Amazon (the Xingu River headwaters, 7 times the size of Costa Rica), and the 7,500 km2 island of Bali. These cloud-free mosaics were assembled with great speed because of the excellent quality of the images. ALOS data are being gathered by JAXA for all of the forests of the world at least three times each year, providing an important new tool for tracking the state of tropical nations' forests.
Crop Suitability Report:
The fourth Center study "Ready for REDD? A preliminary assessment of global forested land suitability for agriculture," describes the potential for agricultural expansion into the world's tropical forests driven by sugar cane, soy, and palm oil expansion. This industrial agricultural expansion is already bringing high profits to producers in some tropical countries and could provide an important new driver of deforestation that increases the opportunity costs of slowing deforestation. Five countries (Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and Colombia) contain 75 percent of the world's forested land that is highly suitable for industrial agriculture expansion, as estimated using data on soils and climate. This study also identifies those forests with dense populations of people in them, where the costs of slowing deforestation will only be feasible through development of viable alternative income sources. Forests with low suitability of industrial agriculture and low densities of human residents will be the cheapest to set aside as nations develop their REDD programs.
Additional REDD Reports with WHRC Co-authors:
Win-Win Strategies for Brazil, China, and India
In "Linking Climate Policy with Development Strategy in Brazil, China, and India", WHRC authors and their collaborators at Harvard and the three focus countries show how a variety of approaches to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in those countries would simultaneously address other developmental goals (for example, reduced conventional air pollution, reduced oil-import dependence, increased employment in the rural sector, and maintenance of the ecosystem services to society from intact forests). The magnitudes of the greenhouse-gas reductions and the co-benefits achievable by these means are analyzed in considerable detail, along with the costs of these programs.