Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

Other reports in this collection Are Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Be Counted?

When forest land is cleared and biomass is burned, GHGs in addition to CO2 can be emitted. Depending on fire intensity and other factors, such as moisture content, a variable fraction of carbon and nitrogen in biomass and the soil will be released as CH4, CO, N2O, and NOX. Similarly, application of nitrogen fertilizers in afforestation or reforestation can result in significant emissions of N2O. Draining peatlands, on the other hand, can lead to reduced CH4 emissions-at the cost, however, of large carbon losses (Cannell et al., 1993). Some studies suggest that water-level drawdown in peatlands decreases the greenhouse impact (Laine et al., 1996).

Methane and nitrous oxide are among the six GHGs in Annex A of the Kyoto Protocol. Although Annex A lists the agricultural sector, including emissions from prescribed burning of savannas and field burning of agricultural residues, it does not include land-use change and forestry. Only Articles 3.3 and 3.4 are vehicles to bring land-use change and forestry activities into the accounting. Article 3.3 mentions GHG emissions from sources and removals by sinks, but these changes are to be measured as verifiable changes in stocks. This provision suggests the exclusion of non-CO2 GHG emissions because they cannot be verified as changes in stocks. Conversely, given that Article 3.7 specifically mentions "CO2-equivalents," non-CO2 GHGs arguably could be included under Article 3.3 as well, if an equivalent treatment of emissions and removals between the 1990 baseline and the commitment period is to be achieved. Parties may wish to clarify the intent in the Protocol regarding non-CO2 GHGs, with these gases universally ruled in or out for ARD activities. Including non-CO2 GHGs would greatly increase data requirements and the complexity of methods required for determining associated fluxes. Excluding them would neglect some of the GHG fluxes to and from the atmosphere associated with ARD activities, such as wetland drainage, use of fertilizers, or prescribed burning.

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