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The leaky sink: persistent obstacles to a forest carbon sequestration program based on individual projects


  • Kenneth Richards
  • Krister Andersson


One strategy for mitigating the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is to expand the size of the terrestrial carbon sink, particularly forests, essentially using trees as biological scrubbers. Within relevant ranges of carbon abatement targets, augmenting carbon sequestration by protecting and expanding biomass sinks can potentially make large contributions at costs that are comparable or lower than for emission source controls. The Kyoto protocol to the framework convention on climate change includes many provisions for forest and land use carbon sequestration projects and activities in its signatories' overall greenhouse gas mitigation plans. In particular, the protocol provides a joint implementation provision and a clean development mechanism that would allow nations to claim credit for carbon sequestration projects undertaken in cooperation with other countries. However, there are many obstacles for implementing an effective program of land use change and forestry carbon credits, especially measurement challenges. This paper explains the difficulty that even impartial analysts have in assessing the carbon offset benefits of projects. When these measurement challenges are combined with self-interest, asymmetries of information, and large numbers, it prevents to a project-based forest and land use carbon credit program may be insurmountable.

Suggested Citation

  • Kenneth Richards & Krister Andersson, 2001. "The leaky sink: persistent obstacles to a forest carbon sequestration program based on individual projects," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 41-54, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:tcpoxx:v:1:y:2001:i:1:p:41-54
    DOI: 10.3763/cpol.2001.0105

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    Cited by:

    1. Mason, Charles F. & Plantinga, Andrew J., 2013. "The additionality problem with offsets: Optimal contracts for carbon sequestration in forests," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 1-14.
    2. Paul J. Burke, 2016. "Undermined by Adverse Selection: Australia's Direct Action Abatement Subsidies," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 35(3), pages 216-229, September.
    3. Charles F. Mason, 2018. "Optimal Contracts for Discouraging Deforestation with Risk Averse Agents," CESifo Working Paper Series 7067, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Charles Mason & Andrew Plantinga, 2011. "Contracting for Impure Public Goods: Carbon Offsets and Additionality," NBER Working Papers 16963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Adam G. Bumpus & Diana M. Liverman, 2008. "Accumulation by Decarbonization and the Governance of Carbon Offsets," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 84(2), pages 127-155, April.
    6. Alice Favero & Robert Mendelsohn, 2014. "Using Markets for Woody Biomass Energy to Sequester Carbon in Forests," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 75-95.
    7. Torres, Arturo Balderas & Marchant, Rob & Lovett, Jon C. & Smart, James C.R. & Tipper, Richard, 2010. "Analysis of the carbon sequestration costs of afforestation and reforestation agroforestry practices and the use of cost curves to evaluate their potential for implementation of climate change mitigat," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 469-477, January.

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