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Uncertain Emission Reductions from Forest Conservation: REDD in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Charlene Watson, London School of Economics and Political Science
Susana Mourato, London School of Economics and Political Science
E. J. Milner-Gulland, Imperial College London

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05670-180306

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Abstract

The environmental integrity of a mechanism rewarding Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) depends on appropriate accounting for emission reductions. Largely stemming from a lack of forest data in developing countries, emission reductions accounting contains substantial uncertainty as a result of forest carbon stock estimates, where the application of biome-averaged data over large forest areas is commonplace. Using a case study in the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia, we exemplify the implications of primary and secondary forest carbon stock estimates on predicted REDD project emission reductions and revenues. Primary data estimate area-weighted mean forest carbon stock of 195 tC/ha ± 81, and biome-averaged data reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underestimate forest carbon stock in the Bale Mountains by as much as 63% in moist forest and 58% in dry forest. Combining forest carbon stock estimates and uncertainty in voluntary carbon market prices demonstrates the financial impact of uncertainty: potential revenues over the 20-year project ranged between US$9 million and US$185 million. Estimated revenues will influence decisions to implement a project or not and may have profound implications for the level of benefit sharing that can be supported. Strong financial incentives exist to improve forest carbon stock estimates in tropical forests, as well as the environmental integrity of REDD projects.

Key words

deforestation; emission reductions accounting; Ethiopia; forest carbon stocks; REDD; uncertainty
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087