MAR 06, 2018 4:37 PM PST

Carbon credit pricing needs to be higher to save forests

You may have heard about carbon finance schemes. They’re systems set up to incentivize keeping trees in the ground (and therefore carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere) instead of logging them for monoculture crops or timber. In idea, they work great - so great that the Paris Agreement even included the institution of such financial incentives called “REDD+” in its protocol. REDD+ encourages countries, companies, and individuals to buy carbon credits as a technique to reduce forest degradation, basically through the idea that if you’re a big carbon-footprint maker, then you should be financially supporting endeavors to reduce the global carbon footprint. (Similar systems are in place if you’re a frequent flyer, see more here.)

But a new study published in Nature Communications asks the question, what if those financial incentives aren’t enough? Or, in other words, what if the monetary value offered for keeping forests in the ground isn’t high enough?

Lead researcher Eleanor Warren-Thomas, from the University of East Anglia, explains: "Forest carbon credits place an economic value on the carbon storage ecosystem service provided by forests -- we know that there are many other reasons why a forest might be conserved, aside from just the financial incentives offered by carbon finance, but carbon schemes are considered a useful tool in the battle against climate change and deforestation.”

Forests in general, but particularly older and more biodiverse forests such as those in Southeast Asia that the study focused on, are carbon sinks. That means that they (the trees) take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the carbon in their roots and the soil. When they are felled there is a triple-fold crisis, as trees 1) can no longer absorb CO2, 2) the CO2 they had stored often enters the atmosphere (through burning) and 3) the loss of individual trees make the carbon sink’s capacity smaller.

In Cambodia, the team of scientists from the universities of Copenhagen, Exeter, and Oxford collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Forestry Administration of Cambodia to analyze a comprehensive set of forest data. The forests there are threatened by rubber plantations, which cover 8.6 million hectares, roughly two-thirds of the land used for oil palm plantations. The demand for rubber comes from the tire industry and many plantations are intensive monocultures.

This forest in the Southern Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia is a huge carbon sink. Photo: Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay

The study found that the carbon pricing for these forests does not currently have a high enough monetary value to keep the forests intact. At the moment the carbon market prices carbon credits from $5-$13 per tonne of CO2. They need to be between $30-$51 per tonne of CO2, according to the researchers.  

"Forests are less likely to be protected using carbon finance if the payments coming in are much lower than the profits the forest would generate if cut down. We show that where demand for land for rubber plantations is driving deforestation, carbon payments are unlikely to appear an attractive alternative,” Warren-Thomas adds.

The researchers urge the necessity of raising prices to match the real financial situation.  They also suggest other strategies, like corporate zero-deforestation pledges, and governmental regulation and enforcement of forest protection, to be incorporated as a multi-tiered approach to the issue.

Sources: Nature Communications, Science Daily

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 12, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Detecting Cannabis at an Ancient Shrine at Tel Arad in Israel
OCT 12, 2022
Detecting Cannabis at an Ancient Shrine at Tel Arad in Israel
While Cannabis has only recently become legalized in many areas of the world, it’s been with us for thousands of y ...
OCT 20, 2022
Plants & Animals
Using Drones with Heat-Sensing Cameras to Protect Sea Turtle Nests
OCT 20, 2022
Using Drones with Heat-Sensing Cameras to Protect Sea Turtle Nests
Sea turtles are well known for their curious way of producing offspring: once eggs are laid on a beach, the baby turtles ...
OCT 28, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
OCT 28, 2022
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
In a recent study published in ISME Communications, a team of researchers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutio ...
OCT 29, 2022
Technology
Making EVs More Enticing for Drivers
OCT 29, 2022
Making EVs More Enticing for Drivers
In a recent study published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transport Systems, a pair of researchers from North Caro ...
NOV 08, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Seasonal Thawing in Antarctica Playing Tricks with Scientists
NOV 08, 2022
Seasonal Thawing in Antarctica Playing Tricks with Scientists
In a recent study published in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, a trio of researchers led by Colgate University e ...
NOV 22, 2022
Technology
Researchers Develop Material with Memory Using Magnets
NOV 22, 2022
Researchers Develop Material with Memory Using Magnets
In a recent study published in Sciences Advances, a team of researchers from Aalto University in Finland have developed ...
Loading Comments...