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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.
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 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.
Last Thursday President Trump announced he’d withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement—a shameful act of self-harm. Condemnation has been swift, widespread, and gratifying. But if dangerous climate change is to be prevented then dissenting statements must be backed up with strong climate policies. Fortunately some countries, states, cities, and businesses are already matching words with deeds on climate. Here’s a rundown.
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.