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Could payments for forest carbon contribute to improved tropical forest management?

Could payments for forest carbon contribute to improved tropical forest management?

Under the Kyoto Protocol industrialized countries will be able to meet carbon emission reduction commitments by financing forestry projects that sequester carbon in developing countries. While this mechanism would compensate for missing markets in
forest environmental services, it could also enable industrialized countries to avoid
reducing energy use. This paper assesses whether such projects could contribute to
improved logging practices in the tropics. Results from studies primarily in Asia and
Latin America are analyzed in the context of the modalities of the Kyoto Protocol.
Results show that the opportunity cost of shifting from conventional logging to improved
practices may have been underestimated. At the same time the long-term carbon and
biodiversity benefits of improved forest management may have been underestimated.
These results follow primarily from the fact that most previous studies assume that a
permanent forest estate is maintained under conventional logging and that cutting
cycles are as long as 30–60 years. A more realistic scenario, however, consists of
repeated harvesting at short intervals during the first few decades, resulting in the
degradation of the forest into shrub and grassland. The implications of these results are
that forest management projects may be less cost-effective than previously assumed.
Therefore, expectations about their potential contribution to improved management
should be scaled down. At the same time, the extent to which such projects will enable
industrialized countries to avoid reducing industrial pollution is also unlikely to be
significant. Cost-effectiveness is likely to be highest where timber volumes in the first
few decades after initial logging are comparable under conventional and improved
logging. This is likely where topography is relatively flat, biodiversity values are low,
wastage of felled timber is high and the policy environment is favorable. A number of
proactive measures are suggested to expand the niche for forest management carbon
projects. These measures are justified because the incremental carbon and biodiversity
benefits in the long run may be higher than previous studies have indicated.

Authors: Smith, J.; Applegate, G.

Topic: clean development mechanism,carbon,Kyoto Protocol,logging effects,tropical forests,projects,forest economics

Geographic: Asia,Latin America

Publication Year: 2004

ISSN: 1389-9341

Source: Forest Policy and Economics 6: 153û167

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