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Jonah Busch is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. He is an environmental economist whose research focuses on climate change and tropical deforestation.
Busch is the co-author of Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change (Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch, Center for Global Development, December 2016). He is the lead developer of the OSIRIS model for analyzing and designing policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. His research on climate and forests has been published in academic journals including Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Land Economics, and Environmental Research Letters. He has also published on the economics of penguins, pandas, and surfers. He serves on the editorial board of Conservation Letters.
Busch has advised on climate and forests for the President of Guyana, the governments of Norway, Indonesia, Bolivia, Suriname, Colombia, the United Kingdom, and California, the Global Environment Facility, and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. He is a research fellow at the Center for Effective Global Action at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the College of Environmental and Resource Sciences of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.
Prior to joining CGD Busch was the Climate and Forest Economist at Conservation International. Previously he served in the Peace Corps (Burkina Faso, ‘00-‘02) as a high school math teacher. He speaks French, Spanish, Indonesian, Mooré, and Chinese with varying degrees of proficiency and has traveled in more than sixty-five countries.
In our lifetime we will merely experience stronger storms, hotter heat waves, and higher floodwaters as a result of climate change. But over the course of centuries, rising seas from melting polar ice sheets threaten to erase the physical legacy of today’s coastal cities. A recent study found that sea-level rise from a global temperature increase of +3 °C would eventually threaten more than one hundred cultural World Heritage Sites, from Ayutthaya to Zanzibar, including the Statue of Liberty.
I love trees. Always have. As a kid I loved climbing them. As an adult I enjoy watching the wildlife that lives in them. And now as a Washington, DC-based policy wonk, I appreciate how the carbon that trees sequester from the atmosphere protects us from climate change and its regressive effects.
The newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, "Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change,” describes the actions that people will need to take if we are to maintain a safe and stable global climate. Like the two previous IPCC reports (which I have written about here and here), it is based on the collective volunteer work of dozens of top scientists and economists synthesizing the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed articles.
Forests provide a wealth of public services and private goods, yet forested land is being steadily converted to other uses, including cropland, pasture, mining, and urban areas, which can generate greater private economic returns. Public concern over the benefits of forests lost due to deforestation has led to a variety of deliberate policies intended to slow the rate of deforestation. These efforts benefit from research to understand what factors drive deforestation and what policies can effectively stop it.
In 2009, Guyana created a Low Carbon Development Strategy to develop economically while keeping its entire forest intact, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Norway to receive performance-based payments in the tens of millions of dollars annually contingent upon holding nationwide deforestation to a near-zero rate. In mid-February, 2014, we visited Guyana as part of a three-country study to attempt to gain insights of value to the future expansion of performance-based payments in other countries and other sectors.
What if international development finance paid for outcomes, like children educated or diseases avoided, rather than inputs like classrooms built or medicines procured? That’s the premise of CGD’s longstanding work on Cash-on-Delivery Aid. By paying only for the verified progress on measured outcomes, donors are assured of value for money, and recipients have the flexibility and incentive to innovate. This idea is taking hold in education, health, and other sectors.
The G-7 committed on Monday to “decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century.” The goal of decarbonization—powering the economy without emitting greenhouse gases—has ascended with dizzying velocity from a plea by activists to acceptance at the highest levels of government.
The Center for Global Development hosted two side events in Lima during the 20th UNFCCC Conference of Parties. On December 3rd and December 5th, CGD experts Frances Seymour and Jonah Busch presented findings from their forthcoming book, Why Forests? Why Now?, which draws upon science, economics, and political analysis to show that tropical forests are essential for climate stability and sustainable development, that now is the time for action, and that payment-for-performance finance is a course of action with great potential for success. Background paper authors presented highlights from their analyses and discussed how their findings contribute to the mounting evidence of the urgency, affordability, and feasibility of scaled-up funding to reduce the rate of deforestation, particularly through performance-based approaches.
California is looking to tropical forests to help slow climate change. After years of delays, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) appears to finally be moving ahead with plans to finance tropical forest protection through “sectoral offsets” to its cap-and-trade program, in which California companies could meet part of their climate obligations by buying offset credits from states in developing countries that reduce emissions from deforestation.