Part of the PhD Seminar Series that alternates locations between the Grantham Institute at Imperial and the Grantham Research Institute at LSE.

Speaker: Charlene Watson, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE

Abstract of seminar

The environmental integrity of a mechanism rewarding reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) depends on appropriate accounting for emission reductions.

Largely stemming from a lack of forest data in developing countries, emission reductions accounting contains substantial uncertainty. This uncertainty is rarely reported, or even quantified, and the simple application of broad assumptions over large forest areas is commonplace.

Using a case study in the Bale Mountains Eco-Region in southwest Ethiopia, simple and complex forest carbon accounting methods are compared, and the profits from a REDD project modelled.

Complex accounting through primary data collection found weighted mean forest carbon stock of 195tC/ha ±81. Simple biome-averaged data reported by the IPCC would underestimate forest carbon density in the Eco-Region by as much as 63 per cent in tropical moist forest and 58 per cent in tropical dry forest. Uncertainty also exists in the economic assumptions used to calculate potential revenues from a REDD project.

Combining economic and forest stock uncertainty leads to estimates of the potential revenues over a 20-year period that vary between US$9 million and US£185 million. These uncertainties could make the difference between a project going ahead or not, and may have profound implications for the level of benefit-sharing that can be supported.

Hence there are strong economic, social and conservation incentives to improve emission reductions accounting in tropical forests.

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