Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

Other reports in this collection Direct versus Indirect

The Kyoto Protocol distinguishes between direct and indirect human-induced land-use change and forestry activities. The word "direct" precedes the phrase "human-induced" in Article 3.3 but not in Article 3.4. Temporal and spatial immediacy may indicate directness; the closer in time and space the activity is to the impact, the more direct it is. Intent and foreseeability also might be relevant in determining directness.

One of the most significant distinctions between direct activities and indirect influences relates to the effects of CO2 fertilization and nitrogen deposition. CO2 fertilization and nitrogen deposition are indirect because the removals are not geographically immediate-that is, they may occur thousands of miles from the site of the emissions. The fact that enhanced growth of biota is a completely unintended consequence of the polluting activity also argues in favor of treating it as an indirect activity. Moreover, CO2 fertilization and nitrogen deposition cannot reasonably be described as land-use change or forestry activities.

At the global scale, carbon cycle studies suggest that terrestrial ecosystems that are not subject to tropical deforestation are sequestering an average of approximately 2.2 Gt C yr-1 through biomass regrowth resulting from natural regeneration and uptake of carbon dioxide, as well as nutrient fertilization and changing climate (see Chapter 1). The geographic distribution of this sink is uncertain, but if credit became available for the effects of carbon and/or nitrogen fertilization over a large fraction of the landscape, the implications would be profound. If Parties could obtain credit for 50 percent of the estimated sink from these factors, achieving the emission limitations of the first commitment period would not require any actions beyond business-as-usual projections (Lashof and Hare, 1999). Accounting inconsistencies also could arise if credit could be taken under the Kyoto Protocol for CO2 and nitrogen fertilization.2

On the other hand, completely excluding these effects from crediting may be impractical because current methods cannot precisely determine either the total or incremental amounts of uptake attributable to CO2 and nitrogen fertilization. Indeed, estimates of carbon uptake from forest inventory data continue to suggest a much smaller current terrestrial carbon sink than that inferred from atmospheric measurements (Holland and Brown, 1999; Lashof and Hare, 1999). At a project level, however, an approach that compares a "with-project" scenario to a "without-project" scenario should control for much of the fertilization effect because both scenarios will be subject to fertilization. As Section 2.3.4 notes, a similar approach could be applied at the national level under Article 3.4, but use of a baseline may not be practical or important to accounting under Article 3.3.

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