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Are Grassland Conservation Programs a Cost-Effective Way to Fight Climate Change? Evidence from France

Sylvain Chabé-Ferret and Anca Voia

No cx8j6, SocArXiv from Center for Open Science

Abstract: Grasslands, especially when extensively managed and when replacing croplands, store Green-House Gases. As a result, Grassland Conservation Programs, that pay farmers for maintaining grassland cover, might be an effective way to combat climate change, if they succeed in triggering an increase in grassland cover for a reasonable amount of money. In this paper, we use a natural experiment to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the French Grassland Conservation Program, the largest of such programs in the world. We exploit a change in the eligibility requirements for the program that generated a sizable increase in the proportion of participants in the communes most affected by the program. We find that the expansion of the program leads to a small in- crease in grassland area, mainly at the expense of croplands, which implies that the program expansion increased carbon storage. We estimate that the climate benefits from the program are at most equal to 19%±37% of its costs. The program is thus not cost-effective for fighting climate change, especially when compared with forest conservation programs in developing countries whose benefits have been estimated to exceed costs by a factor of two. When taking into account the other benefits brought about by grassland, we find the benefits of the program to be equal to 32%±62% of its costs.

Date: 2019-06-27
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DOI: 10.31219/

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