Pay­ing to pre­serve trees helps fight warm­ing: Study

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

Pay­ing small amounts of cash to con­vince landown­ers not to cut down their trees is a highly ef­fec­tive strat­egy for re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions that drive cli­mate change, re­searchers said last week.

Trees are im­por­tant be­cause they ab­sorb lots of car­bon diox­ide, which is a by-prod­uct of fos­sil fuel burn­ing and is the pri­mary of driver of global warm­ing.

The anal­y­sis of a sys­tem called ‘Pay­ments for Ecosys­tems’ in Uganda showed its ben­e­fits to the en­vi­ron­ment were 2.4 times as large as the pro­gram costs, said the study in the jour­nal Sci­ence.

“The pay­ments changed peo­ple’s be­hav­iour and prompted them to con­serve,” said lead au­thor Seema Jay­achan­dran, asso- ciate pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics in the Wein­berg Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ences at North­west­ern Univer­sity.

“And we didn’t find any ev­i­dence that they sim­ply shifted their tree-cut­ting else­where.”

The two-year study in western Uganda ex­am­ined the im­pact of of­fer­ing landown­ers 70,000 Ugan­dan shillings (US$28 in 2012) per year for each hectare (2.5 acres) of for­est in which they left trees un­per­turbed.

Sixty vil­lages were ran­domly se­lected to re­ceive in­cen­tives, and 61 were not of­fered any cash to save the trees.

Satel­lite data was an­a­lysed to mea­sure tree cover, and for­est mon­i­tors con­ducted spot checks on en­rollees’ land to hunt for any sign of re­cent tree-clear­ing.

“In the vil­lages with­out the pro­gram, nine per cent of the tree cover that was in place at the start of the study was gone by the end of it, two years later,” said Jay­achan­dran.

“In the vil­lages with the PES pro­gram, there was four to five per cent tree loss. In other words, there was still de­for­esta- tion, but much less of it.”

Forests in Uganda pro­vide pre­cious habi­tat for en­dan­gered chim­panzees.

Be­tween 2005 and 2010 Uganda had one of the high­est rates of de­for­esta­tion in the world, with 2.7 per cent lost per year, ac­cord­ing to back­ground in­for­ma­tion in the ar­ti­cle.

A full 70 per cent of forests in Uganda are lo­cated on pri­vate land, where poor farm­ers cut them for tim­ber. Cleared land is also used to grow crops.

Af­ter the study, vil­lages of­fered the in­cen­tive pre­served 13.5 more acres (5.5 more hectares) of for­est than vil­lages in the com­par­i­son group.

“This equates to 3,000 met­ric tonnes of car­bon diox­ide not re­leased into the at­mos­phere, at a to­tal cost of just 46 cents per tonne not re­leased over the two years of the study,” said the re­port.

Be­cause the amounts of money in­volved are fairly small, and be­cause most de­for­esta­tion to­day oc­curs in low-in­come coun­tries, re­searchers said the sav­ings can be big.

Pay­ing farm­ers to con­serve and plant trees was an es­ti­mated ten to 50 times more ef­fec­tive per dol­lar spent than many en­ergy ef­fi­ciency pro­grams in the United States, the study found.

“This is the first ex­per­i­men­tal study of its kind to show not just how ef­fec­tive, but how cost-ef­fec­tive, pro­grams like this can be,” said An­nie Du­flo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of In­no­va­tions for Poverty Ac­tion.

“Good sci­ence like this helps us un­der­stand how to com­bat cli­mate change and pre­serve en­dan­gered habi­tats, while also help­ing poor farm­ers.”

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