Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation

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Abstract

We evaluated a program of payments for ecosystem services in Uganda that offered forest-owning households annual payments of 70,000 Ugandan shillings per hectare if they conserved their forest. The program was implemented as a randomized controlled trial in 121 villages, 60 of which received the program for 2 years. The primary outcome was the change in land area covered by trees, measured by classifying high-resolution satellite imagery. We found that tree cover declined by 4.2% during the study period in treatment villages, compared to 9.1% in control villages. We found no evidence that enrollees shifted their deforestation to nearby land. We valued the delayed carbon dioxide emissions and found that this program benefit is 2.4 times as large as the program costs.

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