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McKinsey Provides New Estimates for Forestry Sector

McKinsey & Company has just published a new study estimating the costs of various measures for curbing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.  The report provides an updated “Global Greenhouse Gas Abatement Cost Curve,” an estimate of which measures would be most effective for slowing climate change, and how much they would cost. Cathy Vaughan summarizes certain aspects of the report over at Columbia University’s Climate Matters Blog.

RTT Forest in Costa Rica

RTT Forest in Costa Rica

Of particular interest to Reforest the Tropics (RTT) is the section on Forestry, beginning at page 116 of the full McKinsey report.  The report notes that forestry (including land use and land change) is the second-largest source of GHG emissions in the developing world and the fourth-largest source of emissions globally.  The report concludes that forestry, as an abatement lever for controlling GHG levels, represents a very large (reducing emissions to negative 0.7 GtCO2e per year in 2030) and cost effective (below € 30 per tCO2e) approach.

How does RTT’s ongoing work fit into McKinsey’s analysis?  The McKinsey authors identified four categories of forestry-related “abatement levers,” which may be used to curb atmospheric GHG levels:  (1) Avoided Deforestation; (2) Afforestation; (3) Reforestation; and (4) Forest Management.  By and large, McKinsey treats these as distinct categories; however, the RTT model combines at least two of these approaches.  RTT establishes new forests primarily on land previously used for farming or grazing (an “Afforestation” lever, according to McKinsey).  However, whereas McKinsey uses a “carbon graveyard” model for afforested lands, RTT actively employs “Forest Management.”

Indeed, RTT uses an advanced Forest Management approach involving regular monitoring and measurement, replanting where necessary, and periodic selective thinning to allow for sustained forest growth (more info here and here).  The period thinning, in particular, allows for steady carbon sequestration in addition to a regular income stream for the land owner — which serves as an incentive to the land owner to protect and preserve the integrity of the carbon sequestration forest.

The McKinsey study is a must-read for anyone interested in the viability of forestry as an approach for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.