CIE Spotlight: Designer policy for carbon and biodiversity co-benefits under global change

Shaun C.
Shaun C.

Title: Designer policy for carbon and biodiversity co-benefits under global change

Authors: Bryan, Brett A.; Runting, Rebecca K.; Capon, Tim; Perring, Michael P.; Cunningham, Shaun C.; Kragt, Marit E.; Nolan, Martin; Law, Elizabeth A.; Renwick, Anna R.; Eber, Sue; Christian, Rochelle; Wilson, Kerrie A.

Source: NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE, 6 (3):301, MAR 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Carbon payments can help mitigate both climate change and biodiversity decline through the reforestation of agricultural land1. However, to achieve biodiversity co-benefits, carbon payments often require support from other policy mechanisms such as regulation, targeting, and complementary incentives.

We evaluated 14 policy mechanisms for supplying carbon and biodiversity co-benefits through reforestation of carbon plantings (CP) and environmental plantings (EP) in Australias 85.3 Mha agricultural land under global change.

The reference policy—uniform payments (bidders are paid the same price) with land-use competition (both CP and EP eligible for payments), targeting carbon—achieved significant carbon sequestration but negligible biodiversity co-benefits.

Land-use regulation (only EP eligible) and two additional incentives complementing the reference policy (biodiversity premium, carbon levy) increased biodiversity co-benefits, but mostly inefficiently.

Discriminatory payments (bidders are paid their bid price) with land-use competition were efficient, and with multifunctional targeting of both carbon and biodiversity co-benefits increased the biodiversity co-benefits almost 100-fold.

Our findings were robust to uncertainty in global outlook, and to key agricultural productivity and land-use adoption assumptions. The results suggest clear policy directions, but careful mechanism design will be key to realising these efficiencies in practice. Choices remain for society about the amount of carbon and biodiversity co-benefits desired, and the price it is prepared to pay for them.