A carbon accounting system is needed to provide a consistent and transparent approach to recording and reporting of changes in carbon stocks from applicable activities for use in meeting commitments under Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol. This section presents a general accounting framework and describes some of the generic issues that arise in bringing the LULUCF provisions of the Kyoto Protocol into operation. Key considerations include how to identify stock changes resulting from human-induced activities, the implications of different choices of system boundaries and the timing of stock changes, and how to account for incomplete data and uncertainty. Subsequent chapters in this Special Report present detailed analyses of the implications of these issues for specific provisions of the Protocol.
For the purposes of this Special Report, a carbon accounting system records, summarizes, and reports the quantity of carbon emissions by sources and removals by sinks through applicable LULUCF activities for a specific period of time. Through the accounting system, Parties will quantitatively demonstrate the extent to which LULUCF activities covered by the Kyoto Protocol affect their emission reduction commitments. Building on the principles established in the UNFCCC reporting guidelines for annual GHG inventories, an ideal accounting system possesses the following core objectives: transparency, consistency, comparability, completeness, and accuracy. Moreover, Article 3 of the Protocol requires that carbon stock changes be verifiable. Moreover, practical constraints on implementation indicate a need to consider the efficiency of an accounting system. These features are discussed in turn below.
According to the UNFCCC inventory reporting guidelines, transparency implies that the assumptions and methods used are clearly explained so that users of the information can replicate and assess the information. For an accounting system, transparency means that reported information can be traced back to the underlying data through a logical set of procedures that summarize the data. For example, reported carbon fluxes may be estimated by a measurement method that accounts for all relevant pools; in turn, the measurement method is applied to data that represent carbon changes by pool.
The ideal accounting system is consistent with the scientific principles of carbon processes and the institutional context in which the system is applied. Dimensions of scientific consistency include carbon coverage over space, pools, and time. Those aspects are addressed in the full carbon accounting discussion below. Institutional consistency refers to the system's correspondence to the objectives driving the need for the system in the first place. For the purposes of this Special Report, the institutional objective of the accounting system is to demonstrate compliance with the Kyoto Protocol.
An accounting system should produce information that is comparable across Parties and over time. Because methods and data systems may differ across Parties and time, strict comparability may be difficult to maintain. Nonetheless, differences in methods and data should be made transparent so that the numbers are as consistent and comparable as possible. Comparability may require some form of standardization. Although such standards do not exist for a Protocol-specific accounting system, the IPCC Guidelines (IPCC, 1997) may provide an initial framework.
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