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Land use, land-use change and forestry under the Kyoto Protocol: Carbon "sinks"


Under the Kyoto Protocol, certain human-induced activities in the land-use, land-use change and forestry sector that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (known as carbon "sinks"), namely afforestation, reforestation and tackling deforestation, may be used by Annex I Parties to offset their emission targets. Conversely, changes in these activities that deplete carbon "sinks" (e.g. an increase in deforestation) will be subtracted from the amount of emissions that an Annex I Party may emit over its commitment period. The scientific uncertainty and complexity surrounding the land-use, land-use change and forestry sector (known as "LULUCF") means that the implementation details of these provisions need to be worked on further. The main points at stake are as follows:

Defining "afforestation, reforestation and deforestation": While Article 3.3 includes these activities in the scope of the Protocol, it does not define exactly what they encompass. As no common definition of these three terms currently exists, Parties must negotiate an agreed definition that will be used under the Protocol.

Additional human-induced activities: Article 3.4 states that additional human-induced activities in the agricultural soils and LULUCF categories may be added to the three already counted under the Protocol. Parties now need to consider criteria for including new activities in the scope of the Protocol, and which activities should be selected. Article 3.4 mandates COP/MOP 1 to take a decision on this issue.

A further important task for Parties is to devise guidelines for reporting on the LULUCF sector as part of the greenhouse gas inventories of Annex I Parties under the Protocol. In addition, Article 3.7 allows Annex I Parties to include emissions from land-use change in the calculation of their baseline (mostly 1990) if the land-use change and forestry sector was a net source of greenhouse gas emissions for them in 1990. Parties must decide exactly how this provision will be implemented.

Given the particular need for scientific advice on this issue, the IPCC agreed, following a request by SBSTA 8 (June 1998), to prepare a Special Report on LULUCF.

At COP 4, Parties agreed that COP/MOP 1 should take decisions on the two key issues outlined above, and that the COP would recommend such decisions after the IPCC Special Report had been completed and considered by the SBSTA. At COP 5, Parties endorsed a work programme and decision-making framework on LULUCF to enable these draft decisions for COP/MOP 1 to be recommended at COP 6.
Work has also continued inter-sessionally, with SBSTA workshops on LULUCF held in Rome on 24-25 September 1998, in Indianapolis, USA, on 26-28 April 1999 and in Poznan, Poland, on 10-15 July 2000.


Latest developments

The IPCC Special Report on Land-use, land-use change and forestry was formally presented to SBSTA 12 in June 2000.

At SBSTA 13 part I (Lyon, Sept), Parties worked on a "consolidated synthesis of proposals" prepared by the SBSTA Chairman. The outcome was a document (FCCC/SBSTA/2000/10/Add.2) including elements for a draft decision and an annex containing draft text on definitions, eligibility of activities under Article 3.4, accounting, and measurement and reporting. Parties invited the Chairman to further develop the annex to this document for consideration at SBSTA 13 part II in The Hague.

In Lyon, the SBSTA also considered country specific data and information on the LULUCF sector submitted by Parties according to a standard format agreed at SBSTA 12. The SBSTA urged Parties that had not yet submitted complete data to do so by 1 November.

An informal consultation on LULUCF was held in Viterbo, Italy, on 9-11 October.

Next steps
Negotiations will continue in The Hague in November, first at SBSTA 13 part II (in the first week), then at COP 6 (in the second week), with the aim of adoption a decision on LULUCF at COP 6. Parties will have available the revised text by the Chairman as FCCC/SBSTA/2000/12.
Documents prepared for the upcoming session
FCCC/SBSTA/2000/10/Add.2 Draft decision and draft text on LULUCF
FCCC/SBSTA/2000/12 Draft decision related to Article 3.3, 3.4 and 3,7 of the Kyoto protocol.
Relevant COP decisions and key SBSTA conclusions
Decision 16/CP.5
Decision 9/CP.4
(Both entitled "Land-use, land-use change and forestry")
SBSTA 13 report, para. 33
SBSTA 12 report, para. 32
SBSTA 11 report, para.46
SBSTA 10 report, para. 41
Key documents prepared for earlier sessions
FCCC/SBSTA/2000/9 Consolidated synthesis of proposal made by Parties. Note by the Chairman
Compilation of country-specific data and information as submitted by Parties. Note by the Chairman
/MISC.6 and Add.1-2
Submissions from Parties
/MISC.8 and Add.1-2
Submissions from Parties
/2000/3 and Corr.1
Synthesis report on national greenhouse gas information reported by Annex I Parties for the land-use change and forestry sector and agricultural soils category. Note by the secretariat
COP 5 and SBSTA 11
/MISC.7 and Add.1-2
Submissions from Parties
List of policy and procedural issues associated with Article 3.3 and 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. Note by the secretariat
Report on the second SBSTA workshop on land-use, land-use change and forestry
/MISC.2 and Add.1
Issues to be considered at the second SBSTA workshop on land-use, land-use change and forestry. Submissions from Parties
COP 4 and SBSTA 9
Report on the initial SBSTA workshop on LULUCF
MISC.1 and Add.1-2;
and FCCC/CP/1998
/MISC.9 and Add.1-2
Submissions from Parties
Issues related to land-use change and forestry. Note by the secretariat
Synthesis of information from national communications of Annex I Parties on sources and sinks in the land-use change and forestry sector.
This agenda item is supported by the Methodology and Science Sub-Programme


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