Authors: Ravikumar, A.; Larjavaara, M.; Larson, A.M.; Kanninen, M.
Revenues derived from carbon have been seen as an important tool for supporting forest conservation over the past decade. At the same time, there is high uncertainty about how much revenue can reasonably be expected from land use emissions reductions initiatives. Despite this uncertainty, REDD+ projects and conservation initiatives that aim to take advantage of available or, more commonly, future funding from carbon markets have proliferated. This study used participatory multi-stakeholder workshops to develop divergent future scenarios of land use in eight landscapes in four countries around the world: Peru, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Mexico. The results of these future scenario building exercises were analyzed using a new tool, CarboScen, for calculating the landscape carbon storage implications of different future land use scenarios. The findings suggest that potential revenues from carbon storage or emissions reductions are significant in some landscapes (most notably the peat forests of Indonesia), and much less significant in others (such as the low-carbon forests of Zanzibar and the interior of Tanzania). The findings call into question the practicality of many conservation programs that hinge on expectations of future revenue from carbon finance. The future scenarios-based approach is useful to policy-makers and conservation program developers in distinguishing between landscapes where carbon finance can substantially support conservation, and landscapes where other strategies for conservation and land use should be prioritized.