In preparing for a climate agreement in Paris, countries all over the world are planning their domestic strategies for cutting emissions. This often requires new policies to create incentives for low-carbon development, and for that, governments need accurate and comprehensive emissions data.
One important building block is a greenhouse gas reporting program, which a growing number of countries are working on. Mexico, for example, is gathering information from its newly established emissions reporting program to support its mitigation policies. The European Union’s and California’s reporting programs are essential to their emissions trading systems, and China’s reporting program will underpin its national trading system, planned for launch in late 2016.
At Carbon Expo today in Barcelona, the World Bank Group’s Partnership for Market Readiness with the World Resources Institute released the Guide for Designing Mandatory GHG Reporting Programs. Drawing on 13 existing and proposed greenhouse gas emissions reporting programs, the report looks at successful ways to build a strong data collection system and showcases best practices. It provides step-by-step guidance on developing and implementing these reporting programs.
If you are in a forest in Ecuador and see indigenous communities standing with an android phone, a measuring tape and a good pair of boots, don’t be surprised. These ‘indigenous forest carbon monitors’ have been trained to collect field data by measuring a 40m x 40m sample plot. They align the center of the square plot with a GPS coordinate associated with the center of a satellite footprint, and measure the diameter of the trees in the plot. Once the measurements of the trees are determined, they are sent via phone to scientists who use satellite images – and now even images available on Google Earth – to estimate the amount of carbon stored in forests.
These communities can efficiently traverse terrain that is typically inaccessible to foreign technicians. The result is better forest carbon density maps that can determine changes in the amount of forest carbon present over time.
With the cutting and burning of trees contributing to about 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions, any realistic plan to reduce global warming pollution sufficiently – and in time to avoid dangerous consequences – must rely in part on preserving tropical forests.
A critical part of ensuring that the rate of deforestation is decreasing - and the part where skeptics are most vocal - is monitoring, reporting, and verifying (MRV) the area and density of forests. The MRV process measures the amount of carbon stored in a forest, and also helps make sure that further deforestation and degradation do not occur. It also requires both modern technology and old fashioned boots on the ground.