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Research Report

Standards and methods available for estimating project-level REDD+ carbon benefits: Reference guide for project developers

Manuel Estrada
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 78
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-viii)

    The aim of this reference guide is to identify and recommend best practices and methodological guidance to project developers on how to design robust methodologies to account for the carbon benefits of project activities included under the REDD+ umbrella¹, namely:

    1. reducing emissions from deforestation;

    2. reducing emissions from forest degradation;

    3. conservation of forest carbon stocks;

    4. sustainable management of forests; and

    5. enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

    Although the role of early REDD+ project activities within the context of the post-2012 climate regime is still under debate, it is evident that projects applying robust carbon accounting methodologies and generating clear social and environmental...

  2. (pp. 1-8)

    As mentioned in the introduction, the selection of the standards included in this guide responds to the idea of reaching a wide variety of potential project developers with different project sizes, resources and interests, so as to magnify the potential impact of this guide in facilitating the development of high-quality REDD+ activities. The combination of the VCS, Plan Vivo and the CCB Standards fulfils this goal. Other important criteria for the selection of these standards relate to their quality and presence in the voluntary carbon market. As stated in the ‘State of the forest carbon markets 2009: taking root and...

  3. (pp. 9-12)

    The guidance documents produced by the IPCC represent the world’s most authoritative source of methods to estimate GHG inventories. Such methods provide the methodological basis for the regulated and voluntary carbon markets, since they are applied by developed countries that are Parties to the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for reporting their emissions and demonstrating compliance with their emission reduction commitments, they are used to estimate emission reductions generated by the Protocol’s flexibility mechanisms (i.e. the CDM, Joint Implementation and Emissions Trading) and they serve as the methodological reference for the most credible voluntary market standards. Moreover, by a recent...

  4. (pp. 13-34)

    In broad terms, the baseline for a REDD+ project activity is the scenario that reasonably represents the anthropogenic changes in carbon stocks in pools and emissions of GHGs by sources that would occur in the absence of the proposed project activity. A baseline shall cover both significant carbon stock changes in all relevant pools and significant emissions by sources of all GHGs that would occur within the project boundary.

    Baselines are estimated ex-ante and usually remain fixed during the crediting period or for the period during which the projection of the baseline conditions may be deemed reliable; for instance, in...

  5. (pp. 35-36)

    All REDD+ projects need to demonstrate that they are additional, i.e.:

    1. for projects reducing GHG emissions: that anthropogenic emissions of GHGs by sources are reduced below those that would have occurred in the absence of the project activity; and

    2. for project increasing carbon stocks: that the actual net GHG removals by sinks118 are increased above the sum of the changes in carbon stocks in the carbon pools within the project boundary that would have occurred in the absence of the project.

    Baseline and monitoring methodologies must include methods to analyse the additionality of projects, and project design documents require the...

  6. (pp. 37-42)

    The goal of this chapter is to provide guidance on how to estimate ex-ante and ex-post carbon stock changes and non-CO2 emissions due to the implementation of REDD+ projects. Ex-ante estimates are carried out based on the expected effectiveness of the proposed measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and/or increase carbon stocks during the crediting period. In general, the rationale for ex-ante estimates is to facilitate the optimal implementation of the project activities and to provide indicative projections of the carbon benefits and associated revenues; however, ex-ante calculations have different functions in each of the standards covered in this reference...

  7. (pp. 43-46)

    Leakage is defined as the net increase of anthropogenic emissions of GHGs which occurs outside the project boundary, and which can be measured and is directly attributable to project activities. Leakage emissions must be deducted from the emission reductions generated by the project in order to determine its net carbon benefits, based on which carbon credits (VCUs, Plan Vivo Certificates or another type of VER or CER) are issued.

    The following sections of this chapter describe how leakage is approached by the VCS for specific REDD+ project types—the Plan Vivo Standards contain only general guidance for all project types,...

  8. (pp. 47-48)

    Monitoring in the context of REDD+ projects refers primarily to the collection and archiving of all relevant data necessary for estimating and measuring the net anthropogenic GHG emissions and removals by sinks of a project activity during the crediting period. It also relates to monitoring the overall performance of the project site to demonstrate that the project has accomplished what was originally proposed (e.g. that the project has achieved the targeted forest protection).

    This chapter summarises the carbon stock monitoring provisions set out in the VCS and Plan Vivo Standards and points out sources of methods and tools that may...

  9. (pp. 49-50)

    Non-permanence refers to the temporary nature of the emission reductions and increases in carbon stocks achieved by projects in the AFOLU sector, given that carbon contained in the biomass of trees and vegetation is at a continuous risk of being emitted into the atmosphere. In order to provide certainty to carbon buyers and credibility to the carbon markets, various approaches have been put forward to address this issue. In this chapter, the approaches to deal with non-permanence adopted by the VCS and the Plan Vivo Standards are summarised.

    For AFOLU projects to be eligible for VCS crediting, the risk of...

  10. (pp. 51-52)

    In general, the net carbon benefits of a project activity over a verification period are equal to the project minus baseline carbon stocks and GHG emissions, adjusted for leakage and discounting any permanence buffers. However, given that each standard contains particular provision on how to carry out this calculation, this chapter introduces the guidance to be taken into account and the procedures to be followed when estimating the net carbon benefits of REDD+ project activities and determining the corresponding amount of carbon credits to be issued under the VCS and the Plan Vivo programmes.

    The VCS 2007.1 establishes that the...

  11. (pp. 53-54)

    Estimated carbon emissions and removals arising from AFOLU activities have uncertainties associated with the measures/estimates of: area or other activity data, carbon stocks, biomass growth rates, expansion factors and other coefficients.

    The VCS AFOLU documents limit their guidance on this issue to establish that IPCC 2006 GL shall be used in terms of quality assurance/control and uncertainty analysis in all AFOLU project types. Additionally, examples on how such guidance has been applied are given in the approved and proposed methodologies mentioned in the following section.

    Specific guidance on assessing uncertainty is given in the chapters on specific land use categories...

  12. (pp. 55-56)

    This chapter offers an overview of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards177, which identify land-based projects that are designed to deliver robust and credible GHG reductions while also delivering net positive benefits to local communities and biodiversity. The standards can be applied to any land-based carbon projects including both projects that reduce GHG emissions through avoided deforestation and forest degradation and projects that remove carbon dioxide by sequestering carbon.

    Given that the CCB guidance can be combined very effectively with carbon accounting standards, and that 2 such standards have been explored in detail throughout this reference guide, the chapter...