Forestrys Potential in the US

The US is a country with a very large land mass, much of which is capable of growing forests. Forestry is not relied upon for economic growth as in many developing countries so that its forests and lands already represent a net forest sink.

Reduction in future emissions in the US is made difficult by the fact that the country is characterized by strong population and economic growth and a reliance on carbon-based power generation. While the global financial crisis of 2008 slowed the economy, growth is expected to resume at something like previous levels as the world economy recovers. A range of sources suggest a rise in emissions from 7.2 Gt of CO2e in 2005 to 9.7 Gt in 2020, that is an increase of 35 percent.

A study of abatement opportunities in the US by McKinsey (2007b) concluded that substantial reduction in GHG emissions could be secured

Table 1.3 Regional abatement potential at price = or < US$50/t CO2e, Mt CO2e per year, by 2030

Forestry project

USA

NonAnnex I East Asia

Countries in transition

Central and South America

Africa

Other Asia

Total

Afforestation

267

315

354

540

572

572

2,751

Reduced

5

70

50

1,550

1,032

503

3,239

deforestation

Forest

922

636

622

429

84

701

3,584

management

TOTALSa

1,166

977

1,028

2,516

1,694

1,734

9,643

Note: a The totals are summaries and larger than the sums of columns. Source: IPCC (2007: Table 9.3).

Note: a The totals are summaries and larger than the sums of columns. Source: IPCC (2007: Table 9.3).

by 2030 using a wide variety of sources at a price of $50 per tonne of CO2e. Enhancing the ability of agricultural lands and forests to offset carbon emissions made up some 10 percent of the total from all sources, absorbing 440 Mt of CO2e in the near term, that is by 2030, of which some 320 is from forests. The increase would come from enhancing forest sinks on private lands (afforestation or reforestation) and reforesting native forest after harvesting (forest management). Forest offsets, it is suggested, can be looked upon as relatively cheap options in the near term, while waiting for higher cost options of abatement to kick in.

Table 1.3 forecasts a much greater role for forestry in the US than the McKinsey (2007b) study, at over 1Gt of CO2e per year, a conclusion that is backed by Richards and Stokes (2004) and the USEPA (2005). Stavins and Richards (2005) suggest that prices as low as US$7.50 and US$22.5 per tonne of CO2e would induce sequestration of around 1 Gt of CO2e.

The climate change challenge has been taken up by legislative proposals that went before the US Congress in 2007 and 2008. To achieve the emission target in the bills, McKinsey (2007b) suggested that carbon prices would need to rise above US$50 per tonne of CO2e. Against this, the detailed study by Nordhaus (2007: Table V-4, p.163) suggests that the price will need to increase to only $40 per tonne of CO2e in 30 years to limit temperature rises to 2oC, which was a target included in congressional proposals. In Chapter 7 an analysis of the Lieberman-Warner Bill S. 2191 confirms that forestry offsets will play an important role in reducing the cost of compliance by industry with a national cap on emissions.

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