Scientific review: cost effectiveness of forestry for climate change mitigation

Estimating the cost-effectiveness of forestry compared with other mitigation options


Forests potentially have a very important role to play in global climate change mitigation. They act as carbon sinks while wood products offer alternatives to more carbon intensive materials and fuels. Forest Research reviewed previous studies to set estimates for forestry-based mitigation options and highlight gaps in the evidence where further research is required. Cost-effectiveness estimates like these can help the UK Government minimise the costs of meeting climate change mitigation targets.

Key findings and recommendations

  • Methodological inconsistency and a lack of transparency hampers direct comparisons of estimates made by previous studies
  • Forestry options are generally cost-effective compared to many alternatives, as judged by current UK benchmarks
  • Forestry options are critical – based on their relative cost-effectiveness, the significance of emissions from global deforestation, and the imperative to cut carbon emissions no later than 2015 to limit the global average temperature rise to 2°C
  • Incentives are weak for forest owners to implement mitigation activities – they should include payment for ecosystem service schemes
  • More research is required – especially on the effects of afforestation on soil carbon balance, greenhouse gas balances for forest stands, carbon stock changes through a stand’s life cycle, the benefits of carbon displacement, and biophysical effects such as albedo and evapotranspiration
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Funding and partners

Commissioned and funded by the Forestry Commission.


The project was completed in 2013.


For further information contact:

Gregory Valatin