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The elephant in the room - A comparative study of uncertainties in carbon offsets
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE), Chemical Engineering and Technology, Energy Processes.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2878-8656
KTH, School of Chemical Science and Engineering (CHE), Chemical Engineering and Technology, Energy Processes.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3315-4201
School of Sustainable Development of Society and Technology, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden.
2016 (English)In: Environmental Science and Policy, ISSN 1462-9011, E-ISSN 1873-6416, Vol. 56, 32-38 p.Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

The clean development mechanism (CDM) is a flexible mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, which makes it possible for developed countries to offset their emissions of greenhouse gases through investing in climate change mitigation projects in developing countries. When the mitigation benefit of a CDM project is quantified, measurable uncertainties arise that can be minimised using established statistical methods. In addition, some unmeasurable uncertainties arise, such as the rebound effect of demand-side energy efficiency projects. Many project types related to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) have been excluded from the CDM in part because of the high degree of statistical uncertainty in measurements of the carbon sink and risk of non-permanence. However, recent discussions within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have opened up for the possibility of including more LULUCF activities in the future. In the light of this discussion, we highlight different aspects of uncertainties in LULUCF projects (e.g. the risk of non-permanence and the size of the carbon sink) in relation to other CDM project categories such as renewables and demand-side energy efficiency. We quantify the uncertainties, compare the magnitudes of the uncertainties in different project categories and conclude that uncertainties could be just as significant in CDM project categories such as renewables as in LULUCF projects. The CDM is a useful way of including and engaging developing countries in climate change mitigation and could be a good source of financial support for LULUCF mitigation activities. Given their enormous mitigation potential, we argue that additional LULUCF activities should be included in the CDM and other future climate policy instruments. Furthermore, we note that Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) are currently being submitted to the UNFCCC by developing countries. Unfortunately, the under-representation of LULUCF in comparison to its potential is evident in the NAMAs submitted so far, just as it has been in the CDM. Capacity building under the CDM may influence NAMAs and there is a risk of transferring the view on uncertainties to NAMAs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 56, 32-38 p.
Keyword [en]
Carbon sequestration, Clean development mechanism, Emission reduction, Land use, Land-use change and forestry, Nationally appropriate mitigation actions, Rebound effect
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-180934DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.11.004ISI: 000369195700004ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84946887767OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-180934DiVA: diva2:897633
Funder
Sida - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, AKT-2010-040Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth
Note

QC 20160126. QC 20160304

Available from: 2016-01-26 Created: 2016-01-25 Last updated: 2016-07-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. An evaluation of solar powered irrigation as carbon offset projects
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An evaluation of solar powered irrigation as carbon offset projects
2016 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Carbon offsets have been developed as one tool to incentivise investments by developed nations in climate change mitigation activities in developing countries. The carbon offsets can be used towards the countries’ own mitigation targets but are also meant to benefit developing countries by providing a pathway to clean development.

Photovoltaic water pumping (PVWP) technology is a solution to use PV for irrigation, which can be used to restore degraded grasslands and help farmers adapt to climate change. Restoration of degraded grasslands increases the production of grass and will therefore increase the amount of carbon in the soil, a process that may mitigate climate change. However, poor farmers often have limited access to irrigation technology and this thesis assesses how carbon offsets may bring revenues to increase adaption of PVWP technology in remote areas of the Chinese grasslands.

PV modules can be used to mitigate climate change in different ways; the most common is to produce electricity to replace fossil fuel power capacity. The novelty of this thesis is that it assesses the alternative mitigation possibilities for the PVWP project proposed here. Further, consideration of water constraints that limit the applicability of the technology and a framework to assess the trade-offs between potential downstream water impacts and environmental co-benefits of the project add to the novelty of this thesis. Policy barriers for the project will also be considered.

 Used to restore severely degraded grasslands, PVWP projects show high carbon sequestration potential and successfully compete with grid electricity as carbon offset projects. A case is analysed and it shows that the carbon market could play a role in increasing the feasibility of PVWP projects. However, water issues make project implementation very site-specific and some indicators to determine feasibility is proposed to be blue water availability, evaporation recycling ratio and water productivity. Water use must also be looked at with respect to climate, food and energy security, calling for a nexus approach to evaluate the project suitability. In May 2016, grassland management projects are excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism to the Kyoto Protocol, and this limits project implementation to the voluntary markets.

Abstract [sv]

Avhandlingen är ämnad att läsas av beslutsfattare inom klimatområdet samt aktörer på de olika klimatkompensationsmarknaderna.

Klimatkompensation har utvecklats som ett verktyg för att stimulera industriländers investeringar i klimatprojekt i utvecklingsländer. Klimatkompensation kan användas för att nå industriländernas egna klimatmål men är också tänkta att gynna utvecklingsländer genom att tillhandahålla en ”ren” utvecklingsmöjlighet.

Solcellsdrivna vattenpumpar (eng. photovoltaic water pumping: PVWP) är en teknik för att använda solceller för bevattning. Tekniken kan användas för att restaurera degraderade gräsmarker och för att hjälpa jordbrukare anpassa sig till klimatförändringarna. Restaurering av gräsmarker ökar produktionen av gräs vilket medför ökad mängden kol i marken, en process som kan mildra klimatförändringarna. Men fattiga bönder har ofta begränsad tillgång till bevattningsteknik och denna avhandling utvärderar hur klimatkompensation kan ge intäkter för att öka användningen av PVWP i avlägsna delar på den kinesiska slätten.

Solceller kan användas för att mildra klimatförändringarna på olika sätt och vanligast är att producera el för att ersätta fossila bränslen. Det är därför viktigt att titta på alternativkostnaden för PVWP-projekten som föreslås här. Vidare begränsar vattentillgången projekten och ett ramverk för att tydliggöra avvägningar mellan vattenrelaterade problem och miljömässiga fördelarna med ett projekt är nödvändigt. Klimatpolitiska styrmedel sätter också upp vissa begränsningar för projekten.

Om PVWP används för att återställa mycket degraderade gräsmarker, visar projekten hög klimatnytta och de kan framgångsrikt konkurrera med solel till nätet som klimatkompensationsprojekt. En fallstudie visar att klimatkompensationsmarknaden skulle kunna spela en viss roll för att öka antalet PVWP-projekt. Däremot gör vattenfrågan projektens geografiska plats viktig och indikatorer för att avgöra genomförbarheten föreslås vara ”blåvattentillgång”, ”förångningsåtervinning” och ”vattenproduktivitet”. Vattenanvändningen måste också ses i förhållande till klimat, mat- och energisäkerhet, vilket kräver en nexusstrategi för att utvärdera projekten. I skrivande stund (maj 2016) är projekt rörande skötsel av gräsmarker exkluderade från mekanismen för ren utveckling (CDM) till Kyotoprotokollet och detta begränsar projekten till de frivilliga klimat-kompensationsmarknaderna.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2016. 86 p.
Series
TRITA-CHE-Report, ISSN 1654-1081 ; 2016:29
Keyword
carbon offset, carbon sequestration, clean development mechanism, climate change adaptation, desertification, solar power water pumping
National Category
Other Chemical Engineering
Research subject
Chemical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-188562 (URN)978-91-7729-057-5 (ISBN)
Presentation
2016-08-30, Seminarierum plan 6, Teknikringen 42, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Demonstration and Scale-Up of Photovoltaic Solar Water Pumping for the Conservation of Grassland and Farmland in China
Funder
Sida - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, AKT-2010-040Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth
Note

QC 20160711

Available from: 2016-07-11 Created: 2016-06-14 Last updated: 2016-07-12Bibliographically approved

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