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Climate Economics Seminar: Forestry & Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Policy Design and Coordination Insights from Recent Modeling

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Date(s): Wednesday, July 15, 2009 (10:30 am to noon)

Location: EPA East Room 2379, 1201 Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, DC

Contact: Ann Wolverton (wolverton.ann@epa.gov)

Presenter: Steven Rose (EPRI)

Description: Changes in land related activities could have a potentially large greenhouse gas mitigation role in domestic offset programs and in climate stabilization. Recent modeling has estimated that land-based mitigation could cost-effectively contribute to achieving near- and long-term mitigation objectives. However, most modeling assumes a comprehensive, immediate, and global land-use abatement policy. Thus, a mitigation program is assumed to exist that offers credit for all mitigation activities, the program is active immediately (e.g., 2010 or 2012), and the program is implemented globally. This set of assumptions has been assumed regardless of the climate policy being considered in the energy, transportation, and commercial sectors domestically and abroad. Yet, given the recognized challenges associated with implementing agriculture and forestry abatement programs (domestically or internationally), it is reasonable to assume that programs will evolve over time.
There are a variety of forestry and agricultural activities that have the technical potential to mitigate GHG emissions. However, there are differences across activities in terms of cost, the quantity of emissions that can be mitigated, and the implementation challenges that must be overcome to create well-defined and climate beneficial assets. Because of these differences, some options will be more tractable than others; and, therefore more attractive to policy-makers, regulators, and markets. For instance, in forestry, carbon sequestered by new forests grown on previous unforested land (i.e., afforestation) is readily quantifiable with current knowledge and capabilities, as is the capture of methane by covering livestock manure lagoons. In addition to the issue of which forestry and agricultural activities to credit, there is the issue of timing and coordination in the crediting of activities—across regions and within regions. What are the implications of delaying programs, changes in coverage over time, and programs implemented at different times across regions?
This seminar presents insights from various new analyses that explore the implications of forestry and agriculture mitigation programs that are not comprehensive, immediate, and global. In general, the analyses show that less than comprehensive policies will have leakage, but interactions between activities, countries, and over time are even more complex. For instance, domestic and global forestry & agriculture activities are not independent (i.e., they cannot be stacked, or unstacked). The abatement potential for one activity depends on the GHG incentives for other activities. Furthermore, domestic mitigation potential is a function of international climate policy. Finally, we find that commitment to a comprehensive future global forest carbon policy could moderate leakage and offer significant mitigation potential with the long-run protection and expansion of global forests.


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