The carbon abatement cost of REDD+: improving ag yields and household cooking efficiency

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.

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3 Responses to The carbon abatement cost of REDD+: improving ag yields and household cooking efficiency

  1. Paul says:

    Ag waste is the answer!! Especially since they are growing alot more rice in Africa now! What is the soil like in most of Africa? Is it SOC poor?
    Also, Did you see the paper the other week about estimating the cost / benefit of not cutting down forests in Indonesia? I don’t have the reference handy, but I thought it was in science..
    EDIT: nevermind I read the same paper haha

  2. John says:

    On that note, check out http://www.charcoalproject.org/2010/08/tanzania-charcoal-making-made-easy/.
    Might write it up as a follow-up post to this one…

  3. Pingback: Perverting the CDM | Energy and the Future

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