Reducing emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses is considered an essential ingredient of an effective strategy to mitigate global warming. Required changes in land use and forestry, however, often imply foregoing returns from locally more attractive resource use strategies. We assess and compare the prospects of mitigating climate change through emission reductions from forestry and agriculture in the Brazilian Amazon. We use official statistics, literature, and case study material from both old and new colonization frontiers to identify the scope for emission reductions, in terms of potential additionality, opportunity costs, technological complexity, transaction costs, and risks of economic and environmental spillover effects. Our findings point to a comparative advantage in the Brazilian Amazon of forest conservation-based over land-use modifying mitigation options, especially in terms of higher potential additionality in emission reductions. Low-cost mitigation options do exist also in use-modifying agriculture and forestry, but tend to be technologically complex thus requiring more costly intervention schemes. Our review points to a series of regional development deficits that may come to hamper attempts to tap into the large-scale climate change mitigation potential often associated with the Amazon. Low-hanging fruits for mitigation do exist, but must be carefully identified based on the performance indicators we discuss.
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