Regulation Of Carbon Emissions

Burning biomass produces smoke and a number of other pollutants. Consequently, problems may arise over atmospheric pollution. Biomass burnt domestically can cause a number of health problems (Smith 1987, 1996, Gupta et al. 1998) because of the release of carbon monoxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, benzene, formaldehyde, benzo(a)pyrene, aromatics and respirable particulate matter. These health problems are important given that 75% of the world's population is dependent on domestic biofuels (Robertson 1998). Biomass burning can also result in significant atmospheric pollution, some of which may be transported very long distances, as demonstrated by the SAFARI-2 and TRACE A experiments. The US Clean Air Act contains specific clauses related to fine particulates and other products generated by biomass fires and, as explained in the chapter by Fox et al., there is potential for considerable conflict between land managers and air quality regulators.

Land use change and forestry issues were highly controversial issues in the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol. Even now, many uncertainties remain and these have only just begun to be addressed. For example, Article 3.3 states that human-induced land-use change and forestry activities, limited to afforestation, reforestation and deforestation, shall be used to meet the commitments. Afforestation, reforestation and deforestation are still inadequately defined, and the text appears to exclude prescribed burning (which does not result in loss of forests) while including deliberate fires that result in deforestation. Even this is unclear. If a wild fire is left to burn, as is currently the policy in some parts of the boreal zone, does this represent human-induced deforestation? The Protocol contains the possibility of clarifying these issues, and also adding other elements related to forestry and land use change in Article 3.4, which states that Parties "...shall, at its first session or as soon as practicable thereafter, decide upon modalities, rules and guidelines as to how, and which, additional human-induced activities

[besides afforestation, reforestation, and deforestation] related to changes in greenhouse gas emissions and removals by sinks in the agricultural soil and land-use change and forestry categories shall be added to, or subtracted from, the assigned amount for the Parties included in Annex I."

One of the major issues associated with the inclusion of forestry in the Kyoto Protocol is the verification of sinks and sources (Schlamadinger and Marland 1998, Lim et al. 1999). Remote sensing provides a useful way in which large-area estimates of burned areas can be obtained. The problems and successes associated with the use of remote sensing are described in this volume in papers by Cahoon et al., Pereira et al., and Stroppiana et al.. Other techniques also exist (see Larsen, this volume), and offer considerable potential. However, there are many issues to be resolved before many of these methods can be applied to issues such as carbon accounting.

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