LULUCF - Developments at past COP and SB sessions

Marrakesh Accords and COP 7 

COP 7 (Marrakesh, October/November 2001) adopted a decision on LULUCF and related issues (refer to Decision 11/CP.7). The rules for LULUCF activities, agreed as part of the Marrakesh Accords, include three main elements:

  • A set of principles to govern LULUCF activities;

  • Definitions for Article 3.3 activities and agreed activities under Article 3.4; and

  • A four-tier capping system limiting the use of LULUCF activities to meet emission targets.

The principles in the Marrakesh Accords respond to concerns that the use of LULUCF activities should not undermine the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol. These principles underscore, for example, the need for sound science and consistent methodologies, as well as the importance of conserving biodiversity. They also specify that naturally-occurring removals, including removals as a consequence of indirect anthropogenic effects, should be excluded from the system and that any re-release of greenhouse gases (e.g. through forest fires) must be promptly accounted for.

In order to ensure consistency and comparability among Parties, a common definition is established for the term "forest". Some flexibility is allowed to take account of national circumstances, so that a Party may choose, for example, to select a minimum tree height of between 2 to 5 metres for its definition of a forest. Once the values are chosen, however, they remain fixed.

The Marrakesh Accords also provided definitions for four additional LULUCF activities, these being:

  • Forest management;

  • Cropland management;

  • Grazing land management; and

  • Revegetation.

Parties may choose to include any of these activities to help meet their emission targets, and the choice is then fixed for the first commitment period.

Net removals of greenhouse gases from eligible LULUCF activities generate so-called removal units (RMUs) that Annex I Parties can use to help meet their emission targets. They are deemed valid only when the removals have been verified by expert review teams under the Protocol’s reporting and review procedures, and they cannot be banked (i. e. credits cannot be carried over to future commitment periods). In the case where such LULUCF activities result in a net source of greenhouse gas emissions, there would be a cancellation of assigned amount units and/or units issued from Articles 6, 12 and 17 for the Party concerned.

The extent to which Parties can account for emissions and removals from specific LULUCF activities, for the first commitment period, is limited by the following four-tier capping system:

Tier 1: If a Party’s afforestation, reforestation and deforestation activities result in more emissions than removals, then the Party may offset these emissions through forest management activities, up to a total level of 9 megatons of carbon per year for the five-year commitment period.

Tier 2: The extent to which forest management activities can be accounted for to help meet emission targets beyond 9 megatons of carbon per year is subject to an individual cap for each Party, specified in an appendix to the decision on LULUCF. This cap includes joint implementation projects involving forest management.

Tier 3: Emissions and removals from cropland management, grazing land management and revegetation can be accounted for to help meet emission targets on a net basis (e.g. changes in carbon stocks during 1990, times five, will be subtracted from the changes in carbon stocks during the first commitment period, in the lands where these activities will take place).

Tier 4: Only afforestation and reforestation projects are eligible under the clean development mechanism. Greenhouse gas removals from such projects may only be used to help meet emission targets up to 1% of a Party’s base year emissions for each year of the commitment period.