A new study in Nature Climate Change (http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n4/full/nclimate1145.html, or for a synopsis, http://af.reuters.com/article/tanzaniaNews/idAFN2711500320110529) estimates the Carbon Abatement Cost (CAC) of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, a.k.a. REDD+, implementation in Tanzania. Deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa is driven primarily by farmland expansion and the harvesting of wood for charcoal production to fuel urban household cooking; thus forest conservation is linked tightly to agricultural productivity and domestic energy usage, two areas where a modest application of technology can provide huge benefits. The authors’ approach is innovative in that they estimate the CAC of REDD+ in two very different ways:
- by computing the opportunity costs of crop and charcoal production that are forgone by preserving the forest
- by calculating the cost to meet the increasing demand for food and energy by using the existing resource base more efficiently; specifically, using fertilizers and improved seeds to increase yields on existing croplands, and implementing high-efficiency improved charcoal cookstoves to reduce net charcoal demand
The latter methodology is technology-centric, and attempts to get around the issue of emissions leakage (the idea that conserving forest in one area just leads to greater deforestation in a different area in order to meet food/fuel demand). In doing so it directly addresses some of the major social sustainability aspects of REDD+. While higher than the opportunity cost method, the implementation cost estimation of $6.50/Mg CO2 still compares very favorably to the CAC of other technologies, as well as to current EU ETS prices.
Says the lead author:
From our calculations, it may be possible to link large increases in food production and food security with carbon conservation in extraordinarily biodiverse forests, and all at a pretty low cost.
Low-cost GHG emission mitigation plus sustainable development? Sounds like a win-win to me.