We analyze: UNFCCC’s draft technical annex to report emissions

Document provides guidelines to help countries develop reference emission levels and assess emission reductions.

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Louis Verchot, research director at the Center for International Forestry Research.


Methodological guidance for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. (FCCC/SBSTA/2013/3/Add.2, page 8)


  • REDD+ will be implemented in 3 phases: a Readiness phase, a demonstration activity phase and an implementation phase with payments for performance. This document sets out reporting requirements for the implementation phase.
  • Many countries do not have the capacity to develop RELs and assess emission reductions as specified by this document. Countries are considering a range of options, including creating regional facilities with technical capacity and subcontracting agencies to do the carbon accounting for them.
  • This document does not cover reporting requirements for REDD+ safeguards (e.g., consistency with adaptation needs, consistency with development objectives, enhance biodiversity, etc.). This reporting will be part of the Safeguards Information System (SIS).


A. Summary information from the final report the latest assessed reference levels, including:

a.     The assessed FREL/FRL expressed in tonnes of CO2e per year

[As many sectors have reference emission levels, there is a need to differentiate so the F stands for forestry. When we talk about greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide or methane, it is the same as talking about dollars and pounds sterling and pesos. To be able to compare them, you need to talk in the same currency; in the same way, to compare gases, we need to convert them into the same climate currency. As the currency for climate change is carbon dioxide, we convert the potential warming of all gases into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).]

b.    The activity(ies) included

[Several activities were outlined in the Bali Action Plan to be part of REDD+:  reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.]

c. The territorial forest area covered

[Countries will provide information on the area of forests and the location of forests covered under the REDD+ scheme and being reported here. This will likely be disaggregated by type of activity.]

d. Date of the reference level submission and date of final technical assessment report

e. The period (years) of the assessed reference levels

[Reference levels are based on historical deforestation rates and can be modified for national circumstances.]

B. Results in tonnes of CO2e per year, consistent with the assessed reference levels.

[‘Results’ refers to emission reductions or enhanced removals of CO2. The idea is that all activities undertaken in the REDD+ schemes in a country must be considered in the reference level.  So if a country is going to undertake forest restoration and count increased removals in its results, reference removals (e.g., removals that would have occurred without the REDD+ program) from this activity in the absence of the REDD+ scheme need to be assessed as well.]

C. Demonstration that the results in B are methodologically consistent with the assessed reference level, including:

[Countries need to demonstrate how methodologies for assessing RL/RELs and results are consistent. Countries need to demonstrate that methods used to assess emission reductions capture emission reductions additional to what was assessed in the reference level.]

(i). Data sets and approaches used (e.g., remotely sensed data, national forest inventory (or equivalent))

[Each country may use its own methods. These could include remote sensing from different satellite platforms, national forest inventory, FAO data, national statistics etc. Countries need to be specific about the sources of their data in reporting.]

b. Information on the methods/models and assumptions used,

[Methods and models are not standardized and will vary from country to country.  Reporting needs to be transparent and both explicit and implicit assumptions in models should be clear.]

c. The year(s) under consideration

[Countries will report biennially, but there is typically a delay in compiling inventories.  So an inventory compiled in a particular reporting period may cover emission reductions from a previous period.]

d. The territorial forest area covered

[Countries need to report the area of their forest that is covered in the emissions report.  It is conceivable that countries are not able to report on the entirety of their forest domain in a given reporting year.]

e. Pools, gases and activity(ies) included

[In GHG inventories, countries can ignore certain pools or gases that are deemed insignificant or that result in under-reporting of emissions reductions if collecting data on these pools or gases is too onerous.  For example, if a country undertakes forest rehabilitation activities that are expected to increase soil carbon pools, but collecting data on this pool is too onerous, the country could choose not to report on the pool and would not receive credit for these removals.]  

f. Definition of forest used

[Forest definitions vary from country to country based on national circumstances such as climate, institutional organization and political agendas. In the UNFCCC, forests are typically defined by minimum thresholds of crown cover, tree height and area.]

D. Consistency of the results in B with the corresponding information provided in the national greenhouse inventory;

[All countries have done at least one national greenhouse inventory; some have done two. All countries will be required to do this on a biennial basis starting in 2020.  There needs to be consistency between reporting on emission reductions for the REDD+ mechanism and national inventories.]

E. Description of the institutional roles and responsibilities for measuring, reporting and verifying the results.

[Several institutions typically cooperate on GHG inventories.  Forestry ministries typically carry out forest inventories, but other institutions such as research institutions contribute to modelling and other ministries make decisions about land use. To ensure transparency, all institutions contributing to the emissions reporting need to be identified.]

F. Provide all the necessary information that allows for the reconstruction of the results.

[An expert panel will review the country reports and will need to be able to determine how results were obtained. One thing that is not clear is how to treat cases where emissions reports are deemed inadequate by the experts.]

G. Take into account, as appropriate, paragraphs 1(c) and 1(d) in decision 4/CP.15. (the reference to 1(d) addresses the issue of uncertainty)

H. [how to reflect uncertainties – we think this is covered under 1(d) from decision 4/CP.15]

[The previous decision relates to how to reflect technical uncertainties around the estimated emissions reductions. The decision says:

1c)  To use the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance and guidelines, as adopted or encouraged by the Conference of the Parties, as appropriate, as a basis for estimating anthropogenic forest-related greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks and forest area changes;

1d) To establish, according to national circumstances and capabilities, robust and transparent national forest monitoring systems and, if appropriate, sub-national systems as part of national monitoring systems that:

(i).      Use a combination of remote sensing and ground-based forest carbon inventory  approaches for estimating, as appropriate, anthropogenic forest-related  greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks, forest carbon stocks  and forest area changes;

(ii).     Provide estimates that are transparent, consistent, as far as possible accurate, and  that reduce uncertainties, taking into account national capabilities and capacities;

(iii).   Are transparent and their results are available and suitable for review as agreed by the Conference of the Parties;]

I. PROPOSED LANGUAGE – If applicable, any change that leads to an inconsistency with the assessed reference levels, taking into account that these changes may only refer to a decrease in relation to the result that would be otherwise obtained.]

[If countries change their methods to improve their reference levels, there could be inconsistencies in these levels that affect the emission reductions that could be claimed.  It is only acceptable if the revised REL results in fewer emission reductions being claimed.]

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Topic(s) :   Deforestation REDD+