Carbon Sequestration, Co-Benefits, and Conservation Programs

Hongli Feng, Catherine L. Kling, Philip W. Gassman
November 2004  [04-WP 379]

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Feng, H., C.L. Kling, and P.W. Gassman. 2004. "Carbon Sequestration, Co-Benefits, and Conservation Programs." Working paper 04-WP 379. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Land use changes to sequester carbon also provide "co-benefits," some of which (for example, water quality) have attracted at least as much attention as carbon storage. The non-separability of these co-benefits presents a challenge for policy design. If carbon markets are employed, then social efficiency will depend on how we take into account co-benefits, that is, externalities, in such markets. If carbon sequestration is incorporated into conservation programs, then the weight given to carbon sequestration relative to its co-benefits will partly shape these programs. Using the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) as an example, we show that CRP has been sequestering carbon, which was not an intended objective of the program. We also demonstrate that more carbon would have been sequestered had CRP targeted this objective, although the "co-benefits" would have increased or decreased.

Keywords: carbon sequestration, co-benefits, Conservation Reserve Program.