A review of the state of research, policies and strategies in addressing leakage from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+)

  • Stibniati Atmadja
  • Louis Verchot


Leakage from policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) must be monitored, measured and mitigated to ensure their effectiveness. This paper reviews research on leakage at the large (international and national) and small (subnational and project) scales to summarize what we already know, and highlight areas where research is urgently needed. Most (11 of 15) studies published until 2005 estimated leakage of fossil-fuel-based emissions from large-scale interventions such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Kyoto Protocol. Many studies on leakage from landuse-based emissions more relevant for REDD+ emerged afterwards (11 of 15), mostly focusing on smaller-scale interventions (8 of the 11 studies). There is a deficiency in qualitative studies showing how leakage develops from an intervention, and the factors influencing this process. In–depth empirical research is needed to understand activities and actors causing emissions (Emissions), the way those activities move spatially in response to policies (Displacement), the way policies affect carbon (C) emitting activities (Attribution) and the amount of resulting emissions produced (Quantification). The cart is thence before the horse: the knowledge necessary to form practical and accurate working definitions, typologies and characterizations of leakage is still absent. Despite this, there is a rush to measure, monitor and mitigate leakage. The concept of leakage has not matured enough, leading to vague definitions of leakage, its components, and scale. We suggest ways to improve the concept of leakage and argue for more empirical research and at various scales to add to our collective knowledge of Emissions, Displacement, Attribution and Quantification.


Carbon certification Climate change mitigation Emissions displacement Land use change Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) REDD effectiveness Spillage Tropical forests 



This work was generously supported by the contributions of the governments of Australia (Grant Agreement # 46167) and Norway (Grant Agreement: GLO-3945 GLO-09/764) to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). We are also grateful for helpful comments from Christine Padoch and two anonymous reviewers.


  1. Angelsen A (2007) Forest cover change in space and time: combining the von Thünen and forest transition theories. World Bank policy research working paper 4117, February 2007. World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  2. Angelsen A (ed) (2008) Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications. CIFOR, BogorGoogle Scholar
  3. Angelsen A, Streck C, Peskett L et al (2008) What is the right scale for REDD? In: Angelsen A (ed) Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications. CIFOR, BogorGoogle Scholar
  4. Arriagada RA, Sills EO, Pattanayak SK et al (2009) Combining qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate participation in Costa Rica’s program of payments for environmental services. J Sustain For 28:343–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aukland L, Brown S (2002) Report on leakage for the averted deforestation component of the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project. Winrock International, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Aukland L, Costa PM, Brown S (2003) A conceptual framework and its application for addressing leakage: the case of avoided deforestation. Clim Policy 3:123–136Google Scholar
  7. Babiker MH (2001) Subglobal climate-change actions and carbon leakage: the implication of international capital flows. Energ Econ 23:121–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Babiker MH (2005) Climate change policy, market structure, and carbon leakage. J Int Econ 65:421–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Babiker M, Jacoby HD (1999) Developing country effects of Kyoto-type emissions restrictions. MIT joint program on the science and policy of global change, report no. 53Google Scholar
  10. Barker T, Bashmakov I, Alharthi A et al (2007) Mitigation from a cross-sectoral perspective. In: Metz B, Davidson OR, Bosch PR et al (eds) Climate change 2007: mitigation. Contribution of working group III to the Fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Bernard A, Vielle M (2009) Assessment of European Union transition scenarios with a special focus on the issue of carbon leakage. Energ Econ 31:S274–S284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Biermann F, Brohm R (2005) Border adjustments on energy taxes: a possible tool for European policymakers in implementing the Kyoto Protocol? Vierteljahrsh Wirtsch 74:S249–S258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. BioC Fund (2008) Methodology for estimating reductions of GHG emissions from mosaic deforestation. Available via The World Bank Carbon Finance Unit. Cited 23 Mar 2011
  14. Boer R, Wasrin UR, Perdinan et al (2007) Assessment of carbon leakage in multiple carbon-sink projects: a case study in Jambi province, Indonesia. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12:1169–1188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bollen J, Manders T, Timmer H (2000) Kyoto and carbon leakage simulations with WorldScan. In: Third annual conference on global economic analysisGoogle Scholar
  16. Brown P, Cabarle B, Livernash R (1997) Carbon counts: estimating climate change mitigation in forestry projects. World Resources Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Brown S, Burnham M, Delaney M et al (2000) Issues and challenges for forest-based carbon-offset projects: a case study of the Noel Kempff Climate Action Project in Bolivia. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 5:99–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Brown C, Durst PB, Enters T (2001) Forests out of bounds: impacts and effectiveness of logging bans in natural forests in Asia-Pacific. Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations, regional office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. Available via FAO. Cited 15 Aug 2011
  19. Burniaux J, Martins JO (2000) Carbon emission leakages: a general equilibrium view. OECD economics department working papers, no. 242. OECD PublishingGoogle Scholar
  20. Burniaux J-M, Truong TP (2002) GTAP-E: an energy-environmental version of the GTAP model. GTAP technical paper no. 16. Center for global trade analysis, West Lafayette, IndianaGoogle Scholar
  21. Burniaux JM, Martin JP, Nicoletti G et al (1992) The costs of reducing CO2 emissions: evidence from GREEN. Economics department working papers no. 115. OECDGoogle Scholar
  22. Castillo-Santiago MA, Hellier A, Tipper R et al (2007) Carbon emissions from land-use change: an analysis of causal factors in Chiapas, Mexico. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12:1213–12135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. (2010a) CDM rulebook. Available via CDM Rulebook. Cited 5 March 2010
  24. (2010b) A-Z Items>Leakage (A/R). Available via CDM Rulebook. Cited 14 August 2009
  25. (2010c) A-Z Items>Leakage (P). Available via CDM Rulebook. Cited 11 December 2010
  26. (2010d) A-Z Items>Leakage (SSC A/R). Available via CDM Rulebook. Cited 14 August 2009
  27. (2010e) A-Z Items>Leakage (SSC). Available via CDM Rulebook. Cited 11 December 2010
  28. Cenamo MC, Pavan MN, Campos MT et al (2009) Casebook of REDD projects in Latin America, 1st edition (working document, V1.0). The Nature Conservancy and Idesam, Manaus, Brazil. Available via Cited 10 November 2011
  29. Chen Y (2009) Does a regional greenhouse gas policy make sense? A case study of carbon leakage and emissions spillover. Energ Econ 31:667–675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Climate Action Reserve (2010) Forest project protocol version 3.2. Climate Action Reserve, Los Angeles, California. Available via Climate Action Researve. Cited 12 December 2010
  31. Climate Community & Biodiversity Alliance (2008) Climate, community and biodiversity project design standards, 2nd Edition. Available via CCB-Cstandards. Cited 11 December 2010
  32. De Jong BHJ, Bazán EE, Montalvo SQ (2007) Application of the “Climafor” baseline to determine leakage: the case of Scolel Té. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12:1153–1168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Dong Y, Whalley J (2009) How large are the impacts of carbon motivated border tax adjustments? NBER working papers no. 15613. National bureau of economic research, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  34. Environmental Audit Committee (2009) Written evidence: the role of carbon markets in preventing dangerous climate change. Environmental audit committee, UK House of Commons, London, UK. Available via Cited 2 May 2010
  35. Fischer C, Fox AK (2009) Comparing policies to combat emissions leakage: border tax adjustments versus rebates. In RFF discussion paper 09–02. Available via RFF. Cited 3 December 2010
  36. Gan JB, McCarl BA (2007) Measuring transnational leakage of forest conservation. Ecol Econ 64:423–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gerlagh R, Kuik O (2007) Carbon leakage with international technology spillovers. FEEM working paper no. 33. FEEMGoogle Scholar
  38. Guizol P, Atmadja S (2008) Overview of REDD proposals submitted to the UNFCCC. Moving Ahead with REDD: Issues, Options and Implications 156 pp. In: Angelsen A (ed) Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications. CIFOR, BogorGoogle Scholar
  39. Hooda N, Gera M, Andrasko K et al (2007) Community and farm forestry climate mitigation projects: case studies from Uttaranchal, India. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12:1099–1130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hourcade JC, Shukla P (eds) (2001) Global, regional, and national costs and ancillary benefits of mitigation. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Kuik OJ, Gerlagh R (2003) Trade liberalization and carbon leakage. Energ J 24:97–120Google Scholar
  42. Lasco RD, Pulhin FB, Sales RF (2007) Analysis of leakage in carbon sequestration projects in forestry: a case study of upper magat watershed, Philippines. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12:1189–1211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Light M, Kolstad C, Rutherford TF (1999) Coal markets and the Kyoto Protocol. In American economics association annual conference. Available via Docstoc.
  44. Mann ML, Kaufmann RK, Bauer D et al (2010) The economics of cropland conversion in Amazonia: the importance of agricultural rent. Ecol Econ 69:1503–1509Google Scholar
  45. Manne AS, Richels RG (1998) The Kyoto Protocol: a cost-effective strategy for meeting environmental objectives? OECDGoogle Scholar
  46. Mattoo A, Subramanian A, van der Mensbrugghe D et al (2009) Reconciling climate change and trade policy. Policy research working paper no. 5123. World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  47. Meyfroidt P, Lambin EF (2009) Forest transition in Vietnam and displacement of deforestation abroad. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:16139–16144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Morse WC (2007) Payments for environmental services in Costa Rica: conservation and production decisions within the San Juan—La Selva biological corridor. Dissertation, University of IdahoGoogle Scholar
  49. Murdiyarso D, Suyamto DA, Widodo M (2000) Spatial modeling of land-cover change to assess its impacts on aboveground carbon stocks: case study in Pelepat sub-watershed of Batanghari watershed, Jambi, Sumatra. In: Murdiyarso D, Tsuruta H (eds) The impact of land-use/cover change on greenhouse gas emission in tropical Asia. IC-SEA and NIAES, Bogor and TsukubaGoogle Scholar
  50. Murray BC (2008) Leakage from an avoided deforestation compensation policy: concepts, empirical evidence, and corrective policy options. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions working paper NI WP 08–02, June 2008. Duke University, Durham, NCGoogle Scholar
  51. Murray BC, McCarl BA, Lee HC (2004) Estimating leakage from forest carbon sequestration programs. Land Econ 80:109–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nabuurs GJ, Masera O, Andrasko K et al (2007) Forestry. In: Metz B, Davidson OR, Bosch PR et al (eds) Climate change 2007: mitigation. Contribution of working group iii to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Pagiola S, Ramírez E, Gobbi J et al (2007) Paying for the environmental services of silvopastoral practices in Nicaragua. Ecol Econ 64:374–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Paltsev SV (2001) The Kyoto Protocol: regional and sectoral contributions to the carbon leakage. Energ J 22:53–80Google Scholar
  55. Pan J, Phillips J, Chen Y (2008) China’s balance of emissions embodied in trade: approaches to measurement and allocating international responsibility. Oxford Rev Econ Policy 24:354–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Parker L, Gimmett JJ (2010) Climate change: EU and proposed US approaches to carbon leakage and WTO implications. CRS report for congress April 12, 2010. Congressional research service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  57. Pattanayak SK, Sills EO, Kramer R (2004) Seeing the forest for the fuel. Environ Dev Econ 9:155–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pauwelyn J (2007) U.S. Federal climate policy and competitiveness concerns: the limits and options of international trade law. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions working paper 07–02. Duke University, Durham, NCGoogle Scholar
  59. Quirion P, Demailly D (2006) Leakage from climate policies and border tax adjustment: lessons from a geographic model of the cement industry. HAL working papers halshs-00009337_v1Google Scholar
  60. Reinaud J (2008) Issues behind competitiveness and carbon leakage: focus on heavy industry. IEA information paper October 2008. International Energy Agency, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
  61. Roberts MJ, Bucholz S (2006) Slippage in the Conservation Reserve Program or spurious correlation? A rejoinder. Am J Ag Econ 88:512–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Robledo D, Blaser J (2008) Key issues on land use, land-use change & forestry, with an emphasis on developing country perspectives. Intercooperation, Bern, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  63. Schwarze R, Niles JO, Olander J (2002) Understanding and managing leakage in forest-based greenhouse gas mitigation projects. The Nature Conservancy, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  64. Sedjo R, Sohngen B (2000) Forestry sequestration of CO2 and markets for timber. Discussion paper 00–03. Resources For the Future, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  65. Sohngen B, Brown S (2004) Measuring leakage from carbon projects in open economies: a stop timber harvesting project in Bolivia as a case study. Can J Forest Res 34:829–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sun B, Sohngen B (2008) Set-asides for carbon sequestration: implications for permanence and leakage. Clim Chang 96:409–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. TNC (The Nature Conservancy), Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society (2010) Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD): a casebook of on-the-ground experience. The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society, ArlingtonGoogle Scholar
  68. UNFCCC (2011) The Cancun agreements: outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. Decision 1/CP16. Available via UNFCCC. Cited 15 August 2011
  69. Vayda AP (2006) Causal explanation of Indonesian forest fires: concepts, applications, and research priorities. Hum Ecol 34:615–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Voluntary Carbon Standards (2008) Tool for AFOLU Methodological Issues. Voluntary Carbon Standards, version 18 Nov 2008. Available via VCS. Cited 13 June 2010
  71. Voluntary Carbon Standards (2011) Methodologies: new requirements and rules provided by the VCSA. Available via Cited 1 March 2011
  72. Watson RT, Noble IR, Bolin B et al (eds) (2000) Land use, land-use change, and forestry: a special report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  73. Weber CL, Peters GP, Guan D et al (2008) The contribution of Chinese exports to climate change. Energ Policy 36:3572–3577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wertz-Kanounnikoff S, Kongphan-apirak M (2009) Emerging REDD+: a preliminary survey of demonstration and readiness activities. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, IndonesiaGoogle Scholar
  75. Wu J (2000) Slippage effects of the Conservation Reserve Program. Am J Agr Econ 82:979–992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wunder S (2008) How do we deal with leakage? Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications. In: Angelsen A (ed) Moving ahead with REDD: issues, options and implications. CIFOR, BogorGoogle Scholar
  77. Wunder S, Alban M (2008) Decentralized payments for environmental services: the cases of Pimampiro and PROFAFOR in Ecuador. Ecol Econ 65:685–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zhang Z, Baranzini A (2004) What do we know about carbon taxes? An inquiry into their impacts on competitiveness and distribution of income. Energ Policy 32:507–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)BogorIndonesia

Personalised recommendations