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Jonah Busch, a former Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, worked at CGD from 2013-2018 on the science, economics, and politics of tropical forests and climate change. In 2018 he joined Earth Innovation Institute as Chief Economist.
Dr. Busch has published more than twenty articles on climate, forests, and biodiversity 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 is the co-author of the book Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change. He has also published on the economics of penguins, pandas, and surfers.
Busch has advised on the design of climate and forest finance mechanisms for governments and institutions including the President of Guyana, the governments of Indonesia, Norway, Bolivia, and California, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Global Environment Facility, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and Green Climate Fund. He serves on the editorial board of Conservation Letters and the advisory board for Carbon180.
Busch has been a lecturer (adjunct professor) at Columbia University's Earth Institute; a visiting scholar at Zhejiang University and University of California-Berkeley; Climate and Forest Economist at Conservation International; and a high school math teacher in the Peace Corps (Burkina Faso, ‘00-‘02). He speaks French, Spanish, Indonesian, Mooré, and Mandarin Chinese with varying degrees of proficiency and has traveled in more than seventy-five countries.
In uncertain political times, the world needs solutions that enjoy broad-based support. Drawing on more than 20 research papers commissioned over two years, Why Forests? Why Now? demonstrates the disproportionate impact tropical forests can have on climate change mitigation, how the livelihoods of millions of poor people around the world depend on the services they provide, and how consensus has been reached on a framework for international cooperation to conserve them.
Climate change threatens the world’s poorest people most. They are least protected from climate-related disasters by savings or insurance, least able to access modern health care when diseases spread, and least able to move to safer locations when storms rage. Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both.
In what could be the most consequential meeting on climate change in 2016, the world’s airlines are gathering next week in Montreal for the 39th triennial assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). There they will consider a proposal to cap carbon dioxide emissions from international flights and let participating airlines trade the rights to emit. An ICAO-sanctioned cap-and-trade program could lead to airlines achieving their goal in part by buying credits for the protection of tropical forests.
From 2004-2013, Brazil reduced climate emissions by more than any other country on earth, thanks to its success cutting Amazon deforestation by 80 percent. Now, a new study in Ecological Economics finds that actions to protect the Amazon were affordable too, costing Brazilian governments at the federal, state, and local levels just $2.1 billion over nine years—one-third the estimated $6.2 billion price tag of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
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.
India’s tax revenue distribution reform creates the world’s first ecological fiscal transfers (EFTs) for forest cover, and a potential model for other countries. In this paper we discuss the origin of India’s EFTs and their potential effects. In a simple preliminary analysis, we do not yet observe that the EFTs have increased forest cover across states, consistent with our hypothesis that one to two years of operation is too soon for the reform to have had an effect. This means there remains substantial scope for state governments to protect and restore forests as an investment in future state revenues.
India just did something big for the climate: it announced that it will allocate $6 billion a year in tax revenue in a way that will encourage forest conservation. That’s more results-based finance for forest conservation than any other country in the world, including the current biggest spender Norway.
The climate agreement from Paris is far-reaching in its implications. The countries of the world have just stated their collective aim for global greenhouse gas emissions
to peak as soon as possible, decline rapidly, and reach near-zero in the second half of the century. Two hundred governments have just sent a powerful
signal that the future they want is low-carbon: energy without fossil fuels; agriculture without deforestation.
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.