The Marginal Cost of Carbon Abatement from Planting Street Trees in New York City

By Kent F. Kovacs, Robert G. Haight, Suhyun Jung, Dexter H. Locke, and Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne

New York City (Fall 2013) – Urban trees can store carbon through the growth process and reduce fossil fuel use by lowering cooling and heating energy consumption of buildings through the process of transpiration, shading, and the blocking of wind. However, the planting and maintenance of urban trees come at a cost.

Researchers estimate the discounted cost of net carbon reductions associated with planting and caring for street trees in New York City (NYC) over 50- and 100-year horizons. Depending on the species planted, the cost of reducing carbon, averaged across planting locations, ranges from $3133 to $8888 per tonne carbon (tC), which is higher than current cost estimates of forest-based carbon sequestration.

The London plane tree is the most cost-effective species because of its long life span and large canopy, and the marginal cost of carbon reduction for the species ranges from $1553 to $7396/tC across planting locations.

The boroughs of Staten Island and Queens have planting locations with the lowest average costs of carbon reduction ($2657/tC and $2755/tC, respectively), resulting from greater reductions in energy consumption in nearby buildings, which have fewer stories and more residential use than buildings in the other boroughs.

Source:  The Marginal Cost of Carbon Abatement from Planting Street Trees in New York City