This dissertation attempts to explain how the provision of carbon sequestration through native forest restoration is shaped by policy design and its interactions with biophysical, economic, and institutional factors.
My approach was novel in the combination of methods used to address a policy problem, as well as the application of each method to the land-use component of climate policy. First, I developed the concept of a land management system for earning carbon credits—which I call "carbon farming"—and examine how such a system might fit into existing policies. I reviewed the issues landowners are likely to consider in their decisions to adopt carbon farming, with special attention to Māori landowners, for whom carbon farming is thought to offer benefits.
In the second chapter, I used a bottom-up, spatially-explicit land-use decision model to estimate areas of reforestation driven by carbon revenues and other co-benefits. I investigated the broader impacts of carbon farming on the Gisborne District of New Zealand. Analyzing a set of scenarios of possible carbon prices, I compare the value of carbon farming to the value of grazing. The results showed that about 10% of the eligible land in the Gisborne District is so marginal for grazing that carbon farming would earn higher revenues under a wide range of economic conditions. The ability to add revenue from other activities, such as erosion control, biodiversity protection, and honey production, made carbon farming the most attractive option on a larger area of land.
In Chapter 3, I evaluated the barriers landowners face to implementation and developed of a conceptual framework of land-use decision-making. Using interviews, pilot projects, and workshops, I investigated how the requirements of earning carbon credits lead to a decision-making process with multiple steps, and I examined how this process relates to landowners' decision criteria. Again, I paid special attention to Māori landowners and the features of governance and development goals that affect their decision-making. I found that landowners will encounter a variety of barriers in the decision process, which could lead to much lower uptake than is efficient.
The fourth chapter presents a study of decision-making on Māori land. In it, I examine the adoption and implementation of carbon farming among different examples of institutional types within Māori landownership structures. The goal was to shed light on the potential impact of governance structures on decisions about carbon farming. In the project, I designed a set of land management practices and rewards to simulate the decision-making environment created by an operational carbon market. I then worked with landowners to construct a land management system that would earn carbon credits, carrying the participatory process through contract negotiation and signing. Through a series of case studies, I documented how this process played out among four different groups of Māori landowners and explained the factors that led to different outcomes for these groups.
The final chapter presents a synthesis of the biophysical, institutional, and economic factors that affect the landscape-level implications of carbon farming and suggests recommendations for stakeholders and policymakers. The results of my analyses suggest that the economic potential for carbon sequestration is insufficient to drive significant land-use change, but when coupled with other incentives and non-market values, it could trigger transformative change. Policymakers could stimulate the provision of significant public benefits and simultaneously create new opportunities for rural development by providing decision support capacity for landowners, particularly Māori. Landowners may need to make improvements in land governance in order to successfully utilize this opportunity. Further research in each of four areas—biophysical factors, economic drivers, institutional decision-making, and organizational behavior—could lead to more effective policies that trigger the swift and large-scale responses needed to effectively address climate change. From this research, it is clear that the steps of creating the market and quantifying the economic potential for carbon farming are well underway. What remains is to construct local pathways for landowners to participate. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)