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The costs of REDD: lessons from Amazonas

Reducing tropical deforestation is a major climate and development issue: forest clearing is responsible for roughly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, and the forest-dependent poor number over a billion. In the runup to the Copenhagen climate summit, REDD – reducing emissions from deforestation and (forest) degradation by providing incentives to tropical forest countries – has been touted as one of the most cost-effective mitigation mechanisms on the table. But the benefits would be only temporary if forests saved today are cleared once incentives cease. Would the expense of maintaining such incentives over decades raise the price to uncompetitive levels? A forest reserve in Amazonas, Brazil, offers some of the first real-world data on the costs of REDD. Even with pessimistic assumptions about future pressures, the project’s carbon cuts look highly affordable.

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