Effective incentives for reforestation: lessons from Australia's carbon farming policies

Date: 30, Oct, 2018
Author(s):   Megan C. Evans
Publisher: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability

Large-scale reforestation will rely at least in part on private landholders who are motivated to increase forest cover on their properties. Well-designed incentives can encourage landholder adoption of reforestation within production landscapes, while delivering social, economic and biodiversity co-benefits. Here, I draw on lessons from extensive research on barriers and enablers to landholder adoption of tree planting, the growing literature highlighting the potential benefits of assisted natural regeneration (ANR) for large-scale reforestation, and experiences from a voluntary land-based carbon abatement (‘carbon farming’) program implemented in Australia since 2012, where tree planting and ANR comprise several approved reforestation methods. Carbon farming projects to date have primarily adopted the ANR methods, yet program outcomes have been undermined by increased deforestation elsewhere in Australia. Policy uncertainty, the provision of co-benefits and the availability of trusted information are key factors influencing landholder adoption. Incentives for reforestation must be underpinned by a coherent and complementary policy mix which facilitates long-term participation and genuine environmental outcomes.