Negotiations are proceeding for a new international climate change regime that will compensate tropical nations that reduce their carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. In anticipation of this new mechanism designed to slow deforestation, regional projects to reduce tropical deforestation will provide important training grounds for the development of deforestation-reduction programs that are compensated by the carbon market. One of the world’s largest regional forest carbon “products” is under development in the headwater region of the Xingu River in the southeastern Brazilian Amazon.
This approximately 177,000 km2 area contains the Xingu Indigenous Park at its core, home to 14 indigenous tribes. Surrounding the park is a rapidly expanding soy and cattle sector. We estimated annual deforestation-driven carbon emissions in this region for 2000 through 2007 as a basis for estimating the historical baseline of emissions. We then estimated the opportunity cost of maintaining forestlands using spatially-explicit rent models for soy production, cattle ranching, and sustainable timber harvest. We estimated a baseline of 10.9 million tons of annual carbon emissions. The average annual opportunity cost of reducing carbon emissions from deforestation to nearly zero was $270 million and $23 per ton of reduced carbon emission.