Moving (back) to greener pastures? Social benefits and costs of climate forest planting in Norway

Norway is considering a national afforestation program for greenhouse gas sequestration on recently abandoned semi-natural pastureland. However, the program may have negative impacts on landscape aesthetics and biodiversity. We conducted a nation-wide choice experiment survey to estimate non-market values, combined with secondary data on program costs and other impacts, to derive the social net return on land use scenarios. Our results indicate that the scenarios where either half of the abandoned pastures are recovered, or half of the pastures are recovered, and a quarter are designated to the climate forest program, yields the highest net present value. The net present value of all land use scenarios remains positive when limiting the aggregation of willingness to pay to rural households, and when allowing for potential hypothetical bias in benefit estimates and cost increases. Results indicate that landscape and biodiversity values are substantial and should be considered when designing agricultural and climate policies.