Estimating the opportunity costs of reducing carbon dioxide emissions via avoided deforestation, using integrated assessment modelling

28-05-2014 | Publication

Estimates show that, in recent years, deforestation and forest degradation accounted for about 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The implementation of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) is suggested to provide substantial emission reductions at low costs, although cost estimates show large uncertainty.

In a series of model experiments, carbon-rich areas in non-Annex I countries were protected from deforestation. In each consecutive scenario the protected area was increased, starting off with the most carbon rich lands, worldwide systematically working down to areas with less carbon storage. The associated opportunity costs, expressed in terms of GDP reduction, were calculated with the economic LEITAP model. The resulting net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from land-use change was calculated with the IMAGE model. From the sequence of experiments, marginal cost curves were constructed, relating carbon dioxide emission reductions to the opportunity costs.

The results showed that globally a maximum of around 2.5 Gt carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided, annually. However, regional differences in opportunity costs are large and were found to range from about 0 to 3.2 USD per tonne carbon dioxide in Africa, 2 to 9 USD in South America and Central America, and 20 to 60 USD in Southeast Asia. These results are comparable to other studies that have calculated these costs, in terms of both opportunity costs and the regional distribution of emissions reduction.