Press Release

RFF Launches Forest Carbon Initiative

Jan 14, 2009


CONTACT: RFF Office of Communications, 202-328-5026

WASHINGTON – Resources for the Future has created a multi-year interdisciplinary research effort to support the integration of forestry policy into emerging global greenhouse gas emissions markets. The initiative, led by RFF’s Climate Policy Program, will combine research and analysis with direct outreach to U.S. and international decisionmakers on the issue of forest carbon.

Deforestation, mostly in tropical nations, accounts for approximately 20 percent of global carbon emissions – an amount greater than the entire transportation sector worldwide. In contrast to anticipated clean energy technologies that may take decades to develop, forest conservation and reforestation are strategies the world could implement on a global scale both cost-effectively and in the near term.

"Well-functioning markets for the carbon contained in standing forests can provide the economic incentives needed to alter land-use decisions," said RFF President Phil Sharp. "A number of questions must be resolved to make these markets a reality, and this new research program will provide policymakers with the information needed to move forward."

"Developing global markets for forest carbon could well be the biggest idea in terrestrial conservation since the development of the national parks," said RFF’s Board Chair Larry Linden. "But this approach will never grow and prosper without well-thought-out global policy measures to encourage new legal enforceability and appropriate economic incentives to control deforestation. There is a clear need for research, analysis, and education to make this happen."

The Forest Carbon Initiative will be managed by RFF Senior Fellow Ray Kopp, director of the Climate Policy Program, and Nigel Purvis, a visiting scholar at RFF. It contains three major components:

  • Direct outreach to senior-level policymakers both here and abroad through a series of carefully targeted policy briefs on current issues related to forest carbon.

  • Market reports for forest carbon market players and policymakers. These reports will not only illuminate facts and trends in today’s voluntary market but will also anticipate future developments in tomorrow’s compliance markets for forest carbon assets.

  • Basic research designed to expand the overall base of knowledge for policymakers and technical experts. These studies will be used to inform technical decisions by government agencies as well as the views of advocates, companies, and other key stakeholders.

"Tropical deforestation has long been a major environmental concern, but the climate debate brings new attention to the value of carbon capture by forests," said Kopp in announcing the project. "This work will have implications for future international climate agreements, for the next administration and Congress, and for efforts to maximize sustainable development around the world."

One of the first products of the initiative will be a web-based Forest Carbon Index, an online calculator that will provide a country-by-country assessment of the potential for generating high-quality forest carbon assets, Kopp said.

Founded in 1952, Resources for the Future is an independent, nonprofit research organization that conducts policy analysis – rooted primarily in economics and other social sciences – on environmental, energy, and natural resource issues.


Founded in 1952, Resources for the Future is an independent and nonpartisan institution.