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A Mechanism to Reduce Deforestation

A Mechanism to Reduce Deforestation

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Published by: chimed.j on Mar 11, 2009
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06/14/2009

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 MSc programme Environment & Resource Management
Vrije Universiteit, Faculteit der Aard- en LevenswetenschappenIVM / Institute for Environmental Studies
 Valuing CO
2
sequestration as amechanism to reduce deforestation
Essay for the course ‘Sustainability and Growth’ (468011)
Chimed Jansen
Student number 143804225 September 2008
 
2
Introduction
“The development of civilization and of industry in general has ever shown itself soactive in the destruction of forests, that everything done by it for their preservationand production, compared to its destructive effect, appears infinitesimal.” 
(Marx 1909)At present forests are worth more felled than standing. This situation is having a devastating effecton the world’s forests. In 2005 about 13 million hectares of forest were lost due to deforestation,including 6 million hectares of primary forest. Of this 7.3 million hectares were not replaced byforest plantation, or reforestation of other areas. Which equates to almost 0.2% of all forested landand 0.4% of primary forest cleared in a single year (FAO 2006).The effects of deforestation are multifaceted. Primarily they lead to a change of habitat, conversionof tropical rain forest to palm oil plantation for example, leads to the loss of at least half thevertebrate species on the land (Fitzherbert, Struebig et al. 2008). Losses in flora and insect diversityare similar. This diversity forms a resilience to a changing environment, through the varying abilitiesof different species to survive. It also contains a rich resource in chemical diversity, both in smallerdrug-like molecules and in larger macromolecules, of which less than 10% have been tested (Harvey2000).Deforestation leads to knock on effects in soil richness and soil erosion. This can be seen in nutrientloss and reduced soil enzyme activity, resulting in lower levels of total soil nitrogen, alkalinephosphatases and organic carbon (An, Zheng et al.). Left unchecked these processes can lead todegradation of the soil beyond levels able to support agriculture. Finally, deforestation leads to therelease of some of the 283 Gt of carbon stored in the biomass, often through fire, in the form of CO
2
 (FAO 2006). This release can be significant, it is estimated that forest fires in Indonesia in 1997released carbon equivalent to 13-40% of the mean global carbon emissions from fossil fuels thatyear (Page, Siegert et al. 2002). The release of carbon from forest biomass makes deforestation asignificant aggravating factor in global warming.Given the problems of deforestation, the question arises: How can forests be made to be morevaluable when standing than when converted to timber and alternative forms of land?Despite the many services performed by forests, few are integrated in the global economy. One of the services which is gaining an economic value is CO
2
sequestration. In this essay I will look at theextent to which this service could make forests worth more standing than felled.
 
3
Putting a price on CO
2
sequestration by forests
It is estimated that forests globally sequester around 120 Gt of carbon per year, equal to around 60Gt after respiration, 10 Gt after decomposition and including the forest disturbances (includingforest fires and deforestation) brings the total carbon sequestered annually by forests to 0.7 to 2 Gt(IGBP Terrestrial Carbon Working Group 1998) (Matthews, Payne et al. 2000). Simulationcalculations place the figure for current sequestration by forrests between 1.5 and 3 Gt per year(Canadell and Raupach 2008). Taken together these figures give an mean value of 1.8 Gt carbonsequestered by forests per year.
Figure 1: This graph shows the added cost to the economy of employing various technologies to abate carbon releaseand their potential impact. Notice the cost of Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS, for coal at around $35 and up toaround $60 for high cost power sector abatement (Vattenvall). The original McKinsey cost curve places avoidingdeforestation at the position of the dark bar to the left of the $40 mark (Enkvist, Nauclér et al. 2007).

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