Royal Society Publishing

Potential carbon mitigation and income in developing countries from changes in use and management of agricultural and forest lands

John O. Niles, Sandra Brown, Jules Pretty, Andrew S. Ball, John Fay


The many opportunities for mitigating atmospheric carbon emissions in developing countries include reforesting degraded lands, implementing sustainable agricultural practices on existing lands and slowing tropical deforestation. This analysis shows that over the next 10 years, 48 major tropical and subtropical developing countries have the potential to reduce the atmospheric carbon burden by about 2.3 billion tonnes of carbon. Given a central price of $10 per tonne of carbon and a discount rate of 3%, this mitigation would generate a net present value of about $16.8 billion collectively for these countries. Achieving these potentials would require a significant global effort, covering more than 50 million hectares of land, to implement carbon-friendly practices in agriculture, forest and previously forested lands. These estimates of host-country income potentials do not consider that outside financial investment may or may not be available. Our calculations take no account of the additional benefits of carbon sequestration in forest soils undergoing reforestation, increased use of biomass and reduced use of fossil-fuel inputs and reduced agricultural emissions. In all events, realizing these incomes would necessitate substantially greater policy support and investment in sustainable land uses than is currently the case.

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