Global Markets for Forest Carbon

Jun 1, 2008 | Nigel Purvis, Erin Myers Madeira

Conserving the enormous quantity of carbon that the world’s forests sequester in their vegetation and in the ground (forest carbon) is absolutely essential to stabilizing Earth’s climate system. Landuse changes, mainly tropical deforestation, account for roughly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a share greater than either the global transport or industrial sectors. In other words, intentional deforestation is doing more to deepen the climate crisis than all the automobiles or factories in the world.

Forest conservation, unlike advanced clean energy technologies, is something the world could implement both cost-effectively and almost immediately at a global scale. Two major opportunities exist to conserve forests and reduce emissions from deforestation today. First, in December 2007, the international community agreed to negotiate a new climate agreement to trigger deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions globally, including emissions from the forest sector.

Second, the U.S. Congress is considering major climate change legislation that would reduce domestic emissions and help developing nations conserve forests.

Market-based mechanisms lie at the heart of both the domestic and the international initiatives. Greenhouse gas emitters will receive regulatory and other credits for investing in tradable forest carbon assets generated by conservation activities. Today, the forest carbon market is less than $100 million, only 0.16 percent of the $64 billion worldwide market for carbon-denominated assets. Scaling up these forest carbon markets is one of the greatest challenges facing new climate policies. This paper recommends five concrete actions the international community should take now to accelerate the development of global markets for forest carbon assets.

Conserving the Climate
Issue Brief by Nigel Purvis and Erin Myers Madeira

June 2008