Article 3.3 allows credit only for ARD activities undertaken since 1990; Article 3.4 allows credit only for activities during the first commitment period. Aside from limiting credits to newly undertaken activities, these requirements have two obvious consequences: They withhold credits from Parties that behaved in the desired way (regardless of motivation) prior to 1990, and they complicate the accounting system by requiring differentiation of activities by date of initiation. If the Protocol were to adopt more comprehensive accounting of carbon in the biosphere, relaxing the "since 1990" requirement for Article 3.4 activities in commitment periods after the first would make accounting simpler. If the intent is to give credits only for a short list of narrowly defined activities that can be identified in time and space, however, retaining the "since 1990" requirement could work toward this objective. Article 3.4 stipulates, in its last sentence, that if the additional activities are used to meet commitments during the first commitment period (a choice offered to each Party), the "since 1990" requirement will apply; it does not impose this requirement on subsequent commitment periods, however. The options are to either relax this MRG or impose another initiation date. Obviously, the later the initiation date, the fewer the projects that will qualify and the more likely that qualifying projects (or the national scale of an activity) were undertaken for purposes that include gaining GHG emissions credits. The earlier the initiation date before 1990 (unless no initiation date is set), the more difficult it will be to retrospectively gather baseline data, if needed. For instance, remote-sensing data on land cover are not available from before the mid-1970s.
There are two possible approaches for measuring CO2 emissions by sources and removal by sinks in the biosphere. In most instances, the IPCC Guidelines and other conventions estimate the actual exchange of a gas between the system of interest and the atmosphere. This approach is used, for example, to measure emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and CH4 from landfills. The Kyoto Protocol has chosen in Article 3.3 to use the other approach: measuring net emissions as the change in carbon stocks in the various reservoirs (see Brown et al., 1996; Apps et al., 1997; Sections 184.108.40.206 and 4.3.3). Having made this land-based choice for Article 3.3 activities, the accounting system may become more complex if an activity-based approach is chosen for Article 3.4 activities. This approach may be needed in the case of some activities for which distinguishing whether products (e.g., forest products) originate from Article 3.3 or 3.4 activities could be difficult once the products are in industrial trade channels. A stock-based approach does not work for non-CO2 GHGs; these emissions must be treated by activity-based methods.
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