Valuing carbon sequestration to finance afforestation projects in China

Guolong Hou, Claudio O. Delang, Xixi Lu, Roland Olschewski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Afforestation programs have huge potential to store carbon, thereby contributing to mitigate climate change. However, the voluntary acceptance by landowners crucially depends on their economic outcome. We (i) assess the carbon sequestration potential of afforestation projects in various Chinese regions by comparing different tree species, project durations and regional particularities, (ii) analyze the costs and benefits of tree species used for timber and fruit production as well as bamboo, and (iii) compare them with alternative crops under different climatic and economic conditions. Finally, we calculate the minimum compensation required by farmers to convert cropland to forests assuming a joint production of timber or fruits and carbon sequestration. No compensation is needed when cropland with relatively low revenues is to be converted. In contrast, compensation payments must be high for converting land used for cash crops, such as sugarcane. For fruit trees, the amount of carbon sequestered is low, but selling fruits and nuts is quite profitable. Consequently, in most cases there is no compensation needed. The minimum price per carbon credit decreases with increasing project duration because more carbon is stored per hectare, and in consequence, the required payments per credit are lower. This does not hold for fast-growing trees like eucalyptus and poplar, for which the minimum price increases with extended project duration. Bamboo shows a high carbon sequestration potential, and becomes economically more attractive by including carbon revenues. Carbon credits can often compensate the opportunity costs of alternative land uses, except for afforestation on highly productive cropland. We demonstrate that the economic attractiveness of afforestation projects is strongly context dependent and varies substantially across regions. The findings can contribute to the cost-efficient design of carbon sequestration projects. The methodology can be applied to other regions in the developing world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number754
Number of pages20
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Forestry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Carbon price
  • Certified Emission Reductions
  • Grain for Green program
  • Net present value


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