Modeling impacts of development trajectories on forest cover in the Congo Basin

A. Mosnier, P. Havlik, M. Obersteiner, and K. Aoki 
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg (Austria) 

Deforestation contributes about 18% of all carbon emissions and leads to species extinction. In the context of climate change negotiations, international community agreed to compensate efforts made by countries toward forest protection. Forest covers approximately 80 % of the Congo basin with more than half classified as dense forest. It is estimated that Congo Basin rainforest has been rather preserved during the last decades with a low deforestation rate. In parallel, the 90s have been characterized by economic recession, conflicts, and social indicators of Congo Basin countries remain among the lowest in the world. An integrated and forward looking approach could help identifying the policies that will be needed to conciliate economic development and limited deforestation in the future. We use GLOBIOM, a global partial equilibrium model which included both agricultural and forestry sector. A more detailed resolution has been adopted for Congo
Basin and additional information on land use and forest management has been integrated. We show that the risk of achieving agricultural growth at the expense of forests or protection of the forests at the expense of agriculture development is high in Congo Basin. Moreover, if international drivers as higher demand for biofuels and meat will increase deforestation in the Congo Basin, the impact will be limited until competitiveness is not reinforced in the region. Internal changes will have the largest impact. We estimate that the only realization of the transportation infrastructures which are planned and funded in the next years could multiply deforestation by three. A cap and trade approach for REDD with a global limit on total emissions from deforestation could be efficient to stop deforestation in the Congo Basin because of low opportunity cost of the land compared to the other tropical regions. However, this will significantly increase food imports and food prices which is in contradiction with the food security objectives.

Publication date: 
6 Juin, 2011