Baseline Scenario for Carbon Mitigation and Land Based Development Projects

The extent of importance of a baseline, methods for estimation, carbon pools to be monitored and frequency of monitoring is different for carbon mitigation and other land-based development projects (Table 6.1). Baseline estimates are

Table 6.1 Baseline-related issues for carbon mitigation and other land-based projects

Issue

Carbon mitigation project

Land-based development projects

Importance

- Very critical to estimate the additional or incremental carbon benefit due to project activities

- Not critical for roundwood production projects involving planting trees

- Soil carbon stock at the start of a project necessary to assess improvement in soil fertility

Methods

- Baseline carbon stocks could be fixed or adjustable

- Need to adopt standard methods depending on the mechanism or agencies, e.g.

- CDM: approved methodologies

(http://cdm.unfccc.int)

- GEF: Pearson et al. (2005a)

- No standard or prescribed methods

- Standard textbook methods to measure growth or stocks of biomass or soil carbon

- Involves measuring carbon stock at two periods

Pools

- All carbon pools that will be affected by project activities

- Roundwood production: only above-ground biomass

- Land reclamation: only soil organic carbon

Frequency

- Periodically throughout the project period

- Only at the pre-implementation stage

required for all projects, but critical for carbon mitigation projects involving stringent methods, monitoring of all carbon pools and more frequent monitoring. Even a roundwood production project requires the estimation of a baseline, but the project also requires estimates of pre-project biomass stock or soil organic matter stock. Baseline estimation and monitoring for a carbon mitigation project involves higher transaction costs because of more frequent monitoring of several carbon pools.

6.2 Additionally (UNFCCC) or Incrementality (GEF)

Additionality and incrementality are concepts associated with estimating changes in carbon stock due to the project activities in relation to the estimated baseline. A project is expected to reduce CO2 emissions or increase carbon stocks.

Additionality is the additional reduction in CO2 emissions or gain in carbon stock - quantified relative to baseline levels - that would not have occurred in the absence of the project. Although a project activity is generally assumed to differ from its baseline scenario, the proposed project activity or a management practice it employs sometimes may have been implemented anyway. In such a case, the project activity and its baseline scenario are effectively identical, leading to no additionality. Additionality is defined by the UNFCCC for land-based CDM projects as follows: "The proposed afforestation or reforestation project activity under the CDM is additional if the actual net greenhouse gas removals by sinks is increased above the sum of changes in the carbon stocks in the carbon pools within the project boundary that would have occurred in the absence of the registered CDM project activity". It can be illustrated using Fig. 6.1 where additionality of carbon gain is the difference between P(R) and B(R) for afforestation (Fig. 6.1a) or (P-B) for avoided deforestation projects (Fig. 6.1b).

The important principle guiding funding by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is that the project would not otherwise be undertaken without GEF funds, demonstrating the incrementality - a term used within GEF. GEF has provided guidelines for estimating incremental gains in carbon stock due to project implementation.

Estimation of additional or incremental changes in carbon stocks due to carbon mitigation projects requires carbon stock values for the baseline as well as project scenarios and calculation of the difference or change in carbon stocks. Estimation of additionality is also required for forest conservation, roundwood production and land reclamation projects. These non-climate-mitigation projects have less stringent requirements (Table 6.2): it is enough to estimate carbon stocks at the beginning of the project and compare them to the stocks in a future year.

Non-carbon, land-based projects also require estimation of total roundwood production or incremental soil organic matter content, without involving stringent methods.

Table 6.2 Additional or incremental carbon stock for carbon mitigation and other land-based projects

Issue

Carbon mitigation projects

Other land-based projects

Importance

- Estimation of additionality over a baseline is a requirement

- Estimation of above-ground biomass stock or soil carbon density at a given period is often adequate

Methods

- Approved and prescribed methods should be adopted, e.g.

- CDM: unfccc.org/cdm

- GEF: Pearson et al. (2005a)

- No standard or prescribed method

- Standard textbook method to estimate merchantable timber or soil organic matter at a given period

- Methods require estimates of carbon stocks for baseline scenario and project mitigation scenario

- Carbon stock at a given period, such as at end of rotation, is compared with pre-project stock

Pools - All carbon pools are likely to be - Mostly one carbon pool adequate affected by project activities - Roundwood production projects:

above-ground biomass - Land reclamation projects: soil organic carbon

At harvest time for roundwood production At the end of the project

Pools - All carbon pools are likely to be - Mostly one carbon pool adequate affected by project activities - Roundwood production projects:

above-ground biomass - Land reclamation projects: soil organic carbon

At harvest time for roundwood production At the end of the project

Frequency - Determined by the mechanism or programme

- GEF: periodically

6.3 Permanence

The concept of permanence is associated with risk in general and with re-emission of carbon conserved or sequestered in particular (Pearson et al. 2005b). The idea of permanence is that carbon conserved or sequestered should be over a long term and in a sense permanent. This risk of loss of permanence can be due to natural events such as wildfires, which can be very hard to anticipate, or due to human actions. For example, reduced access to land, food, fuel and timber resources without any alternative resources may result in carbon loss due to reversal of project activities. Loss of permanence could involve, for example, deforesting the forest area conserved or harvesting trees raised under an afforestation programme and using them as fuelwood, leading to emission of CO2. The final benefit to climate is greatly dependent on the actual carbon sequestered or CO2 emissions avoided because of project activities over a given period. Therefore, non-permanence is an important parameter while estimating carbon gains. Non-permanence requires careful accounting of loss or extraction of carbon stocks. In principle, the approach that estimates changes in carbon stock between two points in time takes care of any loss of carbon stocks.

Non-permanence may not have direct implications for carbon inventory if the"Stock-Difference" approach is adopted (see Chapter 9 for information on the

Table 6.3 Permanence issue for carbon mitigation and other land-based projects

Issue

Carbon mitigation projects

Land-based projects

Importance

- Critical for mitigation projects, since carbon sequestered or conserved could be emitted back to the atmosphere

- Roundwood production projects: not critical, though sustainable harvesting is desirable

- Land reclamation projects: loss of soil organic carbon has implications for soil fertility

Methods

- Carbon stock change method addresses the non-permanence issue

- Has implications for accounting but not for measurement methods

- No implications for methods

Pools

- All carbon pools likely to be lost or reemi-tted to the atmosphere are relevant

- Soil organic carbon for land reclamation projects

Frequency - Same as for estimating additionality - Not relevant, though permanent soil organic matter or fertility improvement is critical

Frequency - Same as for estimating additionality - Not relevant, though permanent soil organic matter or fertility improvement is critical

"Stock-Difference" approach). Non-permanence of carbon gains is an issue for carbon mitigation projects but not for other land-based projects such as roundwood production or agroforestry (Table 6.3), where any extraction or loss is accounted for in the estimates of roundwood production or soil carbon stocks.

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