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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.
I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport Monday morning jet lagged and optimistic. The lights on the RER train flashed the way to Le Bourget, the site of the climate summit. The summit won’t be enough on its own to deliver a safe climate, but the cumulative pledges countries have already made, if implemented, would be enough to stave off the worst climate calamities, and can lay the groundwork for stronger actions in coming years.
In two weeks the world will meet in Paris for a long-awaited summit on climate change known as COP 21. In the face of despicable attacks last week, the climate conference is to be an expression of hope and solidarity.
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.
When it comes to fighting climate change, California is already a world leader on pricing carbon, transitioning to renewable energy, and decarbonizing the world’s eighth largest economy. California has yet another golden opportunity to lead on climate, by green-lighting finance to protect tropical forests.
There’s a lot to like about the climate pledges that nearly 150 countries have now submitted to the United Nations in advance of the climate summit in Paris in December. I’ve grouped them into seven storylines that I think deserve attention.
When Jimmy Carter announced last month that he has been diagnosed with brain cancer, the 90-year-old former president stated that it is his dying wish to see the last guinea worm die before he does. He may well get his wish. When the last guinea worm dies, it will be just the third disease humans have eradicated.
WASHINGTON – The Center for Global Development (CGD) released a working paper today showing that tropical forests – whose preservation is thought to be one of the quickest, most affordable way to mitigate climate change – will disappear faster than we thought.
If the world doesn’t act:
By 2050, an area of tropical forest the size of India will have been cleared – 289 million hectares, or roughly one-third the size of the United States.
By 2050, we’ll burn through one-sixth of our remaining carbon budget – the amount of emissions we have left in order to keep global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, thus avoiding dangerous climate change, according to the UN.
Using the most sophisticated satellite imagery available to study tropical forest data from more than 100 countries, CGD research fellow and environmental economist Jonah Busch and research associate Jens Engelmann have projected a pattern of deforestation more dire than previous research suggested. Their findings show emissions from deforestation will climb steadily through the 2020s and 2030s before accelerating around 2040.
Much of the devastation the research predicts can be avoided if the world puts a price on carbon, either through taxes, payments for emissions reductions or a combination of both.
VIDEO: Jonah Busch Explains Carbon Pricing
Three ways the world can act:
International carbon payments. If rich countries pay tropical countries for keeping forests standing, rich countries fight climate change more cheaply while tropical countries receive a new, green source of income that could be used to alleviate poverty.
Carbon prices. If developing countries introduce a price of $20-per-ton of carbon dioxide on deforestation, emissions would drop by more than 20 percent by 2020; a $50-per-ton price would cut emissions nearly in half by 2050.
Restrictive policies on deforestation. If developing countries introduce restrictive policies on deforestation backed by satellite monitoring and law enforcement, they can have a drastic impact on emissions (Brazil imposed restrictions on deforestation in the Amazon, and as a result, deforestation fell by 80% within a decade while soy and cattle production rose).
“Conserving tropical forests is a bargain,” explained Busch. “Reducing emissions from tropical deforestation costs about a fifth as much as reducing emissions in the European Union.”
"The Paris climate agreement needs to provide funding and other resources to stop tropical deforestation,” said Engelmann. “A climate agreement without robust action on forests will simply not be enough."
About the Center for Global Development
CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action. Learn more at www.cgdev.org.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) could begin offering results-based payments for protecting and restoring tropical forests as early as July. That’s good news for developing countries, where tropical deforestation can be nearly half of low-cost emission reductions. Yet funding to protect forests remains low and slow, as Frances Seymour and I explain in our book, Why Forests? Why Now? As the GCF moves to enable results-based payments for forests, earlier initiatives offer valuable lessons on two things the GCF should—and can—get right: 1) keep rules simple, and 2) recognize that institutional procedures built for upfront investments may not always be appropriate for results-based payments.
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.
Pope Francis has firmly pronounced that climate change is a threat to the world’s poor in a long-awaited encyclical released on Thursday. The Pope is the religious leader of more than one billion Catholics, more than half of whom live in the developing world. But he has addressed the encyclical to “every person who lives on this planet,” Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Indonesia’s flagship forest policy—a moratorium on new licenses to log or clear rainforests that started in 2011—has lowered the country’s greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation by an estimated 1.0-2.5 percent over four years. But unless the moratorium policy is significantly strengthened Indonesia is poised to fall far short of its national climate target of a 26-41 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.
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.
President Trump’s recent decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement—what does it mean for the agreement? For the climate? And for the US? CGD senior fellows Scott Morris, director of CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative, and Jonah Busch, coauthor of the recent book on climate change Why Forests? Why Now?, join this week’s podcast to discuss.