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How Costly are Carbon Offsets? A Meta-Analysis of Forest Carbon Sinks

Author

Listed:
  • G. Cornelis van Kooten
  • Alison Eagle
  • James Manley
  • Tara Smolak

Abstract

Carbon terrestrial sinks are seen as a low-cost alternative to fuel switching and reduced fossil fuel use for lowering atmospheric CO2. As a result of agreements reached at Bonn and Marrakech, carbon offsets have taken on much greater importance in meeting Kyoto targets for the first commitment period. In this study, meta-regression analysis is used to examine 981 estimates from 55 studies of the costs of creating carbon offsets using forestry. Baseline estimates of costs of sequestering carbon through forest conservation are US$46.62–$260.29 per tC ($12.71–$70.99 per t CO2). Tree planting and agroforestry activities increase costs by more than 200%. When post-harvest storage of carbon in wood products, or substitution of biomass for fossil fuels in energy production, are taken into account, costs are lowest – some $12.53/tC to $68.44/tC ($3.42–$18.67/t CO2). Average costs are greater, between $116.76 and $1406.60/tC ($31.84–$383.62/t CO2), when appropriate account is taken of the opportunity costs of land. Peer review of the studies increases costs by a factor or 10 or more, depending on the model. The use of marginal cost estimates instead of average cost results in much higher costs for carbon sequestration, in the range of thousands of dollars per tC, although few studies used this method of cost assessment.

Suggested Citation

  • G. Cornelis van Kooten & Alison Eagle & James Manley & Tara Smolak, 2004. "How Costly are Carbon Offsets? A Meta-Analysis of Forest Carbon Sinks," Working Papers 2004-01, University of Victoria, Department of Economics, Resource Economics and Policy Analysis Research Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:rep:wpaper:2004-01
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    File URL: https://web.uvic.ca/~repa/publications/REPA%20working%20papers/WorkingPaper2004-01.pdf
    File Function: Final version, 2004
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    climate change; Kyoto Protocol; meta-regression analysis; carbon-uptake costs; forest sinks;

    JEL classification:

    • Q23 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Forestry
    • Q27 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Issues in International Trade
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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