Carbon Tax Could Generate Billions in Conservation Funding for Tropical Countries

February 12, 2020

Nature essay highlights successful carbon tax models in Costa Rica, Colombia

Patagonian landscape, Argentina

Arlington, Va. (February 12, 2020) – A new essay published today in the science journal Nature calls for more tropical countries to implement a carbon tax, or a levy on fossil fuels, the revenue from which could generate more than $1.8 billion annually to protect forests and slow climate change across 13 nations.

The essay examines successful carbon tax models in Costa Rica and Colombia while arguing that if adopted, similar policies in heavily forested nations could address the lack of global funding currently dedicated to natural climate solutions defined as the conservation, restoration and improved management of land.

The essay is authored by Edward Barber, University Distinguished Professor of Economics at Colorado State University; Ricardo Lozano, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia; Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica; and Sebastian Troëng, Executive Vice President at Conservation International.

They note that tropical deforestation is one of the leading causes of global greenhouse gas emissions. About 23 percent of those are caused by human action yet only three percent of climate mitigation funding supports efforts to counter the degradation of lands. If these trends continue, by 2050 the world could lose an additional area of tropical forest – and the carbon storage that comes with it – that’s equal to the size of India.

“If we’re to successfully tackle the most severe environmental risks facing economies and communities around the globe, the time is now to come together and double down on economically smart climate strategies based on nature,” said Troëng.

Costa Rica and Colombia stand out as two countries effectively using carbon tax revenue to support nature. Since 1997, Costa Rica has had a 3.5 percent tax in place that now generates $26.5 million annually. More recently, in 2016 Colombia levied a carbon tax yielding revenues of $148 million and $91 million in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Both countries have directed the funds to programs supporting water, land and biodiversity conservation efforts that at the same time support the social and economic livelihoods of local communities, including support of the peace process in Colombia.

The essay includes two hypothetical carbon tax scenarios illustrating how tropical countries could implement and benefit from a carbon tax, the most ambitious of which has the potential to generate hundreds of dollars to counter forest loss per hectare of land coverage.

Collectively, the essay’s authors “call upon governments, development banks, financial investors and NGOs to support those countries who need financial and technical help to implement this policy, and to ensure that the money raised is spent efficiently and effectively.”

About Conservation International

Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature that people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about Conservation International, the groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign and its series of virtual reality projects: “Drop in the Ocean”, “My Africa,” “Under the Canopy” and “Valen’s Reef.” Follow Conservation International’s work on our Human Nature blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.