Cost of planting trees to fight climate change could soar

Planting trees and preventing deforestation are considered key climate change mitigation strategies, but a new analysis finds the cost of preserving and planting trees to hit certain global emissions reductions targets could accelerate quickly.

Costs for planting trees will rise steeply under more ambitious emissions reductions plans, warn researchers from RTI International (RTI), North Carolina State University and Ohio State University.

By 2055, they project it would cost as much as $393 billion per year to pay landowners to plant and protect enough trees to achieve more than 10 per cent of total emissions reductions that international policy experts say are needed to restrict climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a statement.

“The global forestry sector can provide a really substantial chunk of the mitigation needed to hit global climate targets,” said Justin Baker, co-author of the study and associate professor of forest resource economics at NC State. “The physical potential is there, but when we look at the economic costs, they are nonlinear. That means that the more we reduce emissions — the more carbon we’re sequestering — we’re paying higher and higher costs for it.”

The researchers estimated it would cost $2 billion per year to prevent 0.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide from being released by 2055. Comparatively, $393 billion annually would sequester 6 gigatons, or the equivalent of emissions from nearly 1.3 billion passenger vehicles driven for one year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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