Any system to compensate countries for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) requires a historical reference level against which future performance can be measured. Here we examine the possibilities Sri Lanka, a small forest country with limited data on forest carbon stocks, has to get ready for REDD+. We construct a historical reference level using available forest inventory data combined with updated 2008 and 2009 in situ carbon density data for Sri Lankan forests. Furthermore, we use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to attribute the clearing of Sri Lankan forests in the latest years for which national forest inventory data are available, 1992–1996, to various proximate drivers and to estimate the opportunity cost of forest conservation. We estimate that baseline deforestation emissions in Sri Lanka amounted to 17 MtCO 2 yr −1 in the 1992–1996 period, but conclude that it is challenging for Sri Lanka to produce a robust and accurate reference level due to the lack of nationally based inventories. We find that the majority of forest clearing (87%) is due to small-scale, rainfed farming, with the two other major drivers being rice and tea cultivation. Further, Sri Lankan revenues from REDD+ participation could be substantial, but they are sensitive to REDD+ policy transaction cost, highly uncertain timber revenues, and particularly the carbon price paid for emission reductions. The latter needs to be higher than $5–10/tCO 2 if there are to be substantial incentives for Sri Lanka to participate in REDD+. There is, however, a large gap in the knowledge of deforestation drivers that needs to be filled if Sri Lanka is to formulate an effective policy response to forest degradation in REDD+. For successful REDD+ implementation in Sri Lanka to happen, technological assistance, readiness assistance, and continued political momentum are crucial.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Jun 15, 2012
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