The global demand for palm oil has grown rapidly over the past several decades. Much of the output expansion has occurred in carbon- and biodiversity-rich forest lands of Malaysia and Indonesia (M&I), contributing to record levels of terrestrial carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. This has led to a variety of voluntary and mandatory regulatory actions, as well as calls for limits on palm oil imports from M&I. This paper offers a comprehensive, global assessment of the economic and environmental consequences of alternative policies aimed at limiting deforestation from oil palm expansion in M&I. It highlights the challenges of limiting forest and biodiversity loss in the presence of market-mediated spillovers into related oilseed and agricultural commodity and factor markets, both in M&I and overseas. Indeed, limiting palm oil production or consumption is unlikely to halt deforestation in M&I in the absence of active forest conservation incentives. Policies aimed at restricting palm oil production in M&I also have broader consequences for the economy, including significant impacts on consumer prices, real wages, and welfare, that vary among different global regions. A crucial distinction is whether the initiative is undertaken domestically, in which case the M&I region could benefit, or by major palm oil importers, in which case M&I loses income. Nonetheless, all policies considered here pass the social welfare test of global carbon dioxide mitigation benefits exceeding their costs.
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