Identifying where REDD+ financially out-competes oil palm in floodplain landscapes using a fine-scale approach

Nicola K. Abram, Douglas C. MacMillan, Panteleimon Xofis, Marc Ancrenaz, Joseph Tzanopoulos, Robert Ong, Benoit Goossens, Lian Pin Koh, Christian Del Valle, Lucy Peter, Alexandra C. Morel, Isabelle Lackman, Robin Chung, Harjinder Kler, Laurentius Ambu, William Baya, Andrew T. Knight

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Abstract

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) aims to avoid forest conversion to alternative land-uses through financial incentives. Oil-palm has high opportunity costs, which according to current literature questions the financial competitiveness of REDD+ in tropical lowlands. To understand this more, we undertook regional fine-scale and coarse-scale analyses (through carbon mapping and economic modelling) to assess the financial viability of REDD+ in safeguarding unprotected forest (30,173 ha) in the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain in Malaysian Borneo. Results estimate 4.7 million metric tons of carbon (MgC) in unprotected forest, with 64% allocated for oil-palm cultivations. Through fine-scale mapping and carbon accounting, we demonstrated that REDD+ can outcompete oil-palm in regions with low suitability, with low carbon prices and low carbon stock. In areas with medium oil-palm suitability, REDD+ could outcompete oil palm in areas with: very high carbon and lower carbon price; medium carbon price and average carbon stock; or, low carbon stock and high carbon price. Areas with high oil palm suitability, REDD + could only outcompete with higher carbon price and higher carbon stock. In the coarse-scale model, oil-palm outcompeted REDD+ in all cases. For the fine-scale models at the landscape level, low carbon offset prices (US $3 MgCO2e) would enable REDD+ to outcompete oil-palm in 55% of the unprotected forests requiring US $27 million to secure these areas for 25 years. Higher carbon offset price (US $30 MgCO2e) would increase the competitiveness of REDD+ within the landscape but would still only capture between 69%-74% of the unprotected forest, requiring US $380-416 million in carbon financing. REDD+ has been identified as a strategy to mitigate climate change by many countries (including Malaysia). Although REDD+ in certain scenarios cannot outcompete oil palm, this research contributes to the global REDD+ debate by: highlighting REDD+ competitiveness in tropical floodplain landscapes; and, providing a robust approach for identifying and targeting limited REDD+ funds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0156481
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2016

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    Abram, N. K., MacMillan, D. C., Xofis, P., Ancrenaz, M., Tzanopoulos, J., Ong, R., Goossens, B., Koh, L. P., Del Valle, C., Peter, L., Morel, A. C., Lackman, I., Chung, R., Kler, H., Ambu, L., Baya, W., & Knight, A. T. (2016). Identifying where REDD+ financially out-competes oil palm in floodplain landscapes using a fine-scale approach. PLoS ONE, 11(6), [e0156481]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156481