Carbon Sinks and Climate Change

Carbon Sinks and Climate Change

Forests in the Fight Against Global Warming

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Colin A.G. Hunt

Reforestation and avoiding deforestation are ways of harnessing nature to tackle global warming – the greatest challenge facing humankind. In this book, Colin Hunt deals comprehensively with the present and future role of forests in climate change policy and practice. A review of the workings of carbon markets, both based on the Kyoto Protocol and voluntary participation, provides a base from which to explore forestry’s role. Emphasis is on acknowledging how forests’ idiosyncrasies affect the design of markets for sequestered carbon. Chapters range from the role of forests in providing biofuels and biodiversity, to measuring and valuing their stored carbon.

Chapter 5: Measuring the Carbon in Forest Sinks

Colin A.G. Hunt

Subjects: environment, climate change, ecological economics, environmental geography, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy


The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the aim of the Kyoto Protocol, which at the time of writing has been ratified by all industrialized countries except the US. The countries listed in its Annex B of the Protocol have agreed to reduce their collective emissions during 2008–2012 by an average of 5.2 percent relative to a 1990 baseline (United Nations, 1998). In-country policies to achieve Kyoto emission targets vary. They can include subsidies for switching to renewable energy or to low emission power generation, taxes on carbon emissions, caps on industrial emissions, or a mixture of measures. Where caps are applied, for example in the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme, emission allowances are allocated to polluters which are less than industries’ current emissions; penalties for non-compliance are the incentive to abate emissions to comply with the cap. Annex B countries can purchase or sell emission allowances, which have a scarcity value, in a global market. The decision to purchase or sell allowances will depend on the costs of abatement relative to the cost of allowances. Making allowances tradable engenders efficiency into the process but does not affect the overall cap which is determined by the number of allowances issued. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions achieved in the land use, land-use change and forestry sector are entered in a nation’s national accounts. Annex B countries can also offset a proportion of their emissions through projects that bio-sequester carbon in developing countries. The workings of the markets for carbon...

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