United Nations Environment Programme
environment for development
Carbon Benefits


Carbon Benefits Project: Modelling, Measurement and Monitoring

Approximately 30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from land use and land use change. Sustainable land management (SLM) projects have the potential to not only reduce GHG emissions, by reducing emissions from biomass burning, biomass decomposition and the decomposition of soil organic matter, but also to sequester carbon (C) through practices that increase biomass production and promote the build up of soil organic matter and therefore provide global environmental benefits.

The GEF finances a wide range of SLM activities in developing countries from reforestation and agroforestry projects to projects that protect wetlands or foster sustainable farming methods. The carbon benefits of these and other non GEF SLM projects are likely to be considerable. However, until now it has been difficult to compare the C benefits of different land management interventions as a range of different methods are used to measure them. Equally, it has been difficult for SLM activities in developing countries to gain the financial rewards they deserve from emerging carbon markets.

GEF and other SLM projects need to know if SLM interventions affect C stocks or GHG emissions. A protocol is needed which guides the user through all stages of delivering an SLM intervention in terms of proving C benefits, from forecasting at the planning stage, monitoring and verification at the implementation stage, to long term projection of future impacts. The CBP has developed such a protocol.

The product of the effort is a modular, web-based system that allows the user to collate, store, analyze, report and project carbon and total GHG benefits in a standard and comprehensive manner.

Potential Application
The standardized C benefits protocol allows the comparison of different SLM projects by the GEF and other donors. It will also bring developing countries closer to being able to gain reward for land management activities that sequester carbon.

Project Benefits
These include:

  • Measurement of terrestrial carbon in heterogeneous landscapes with many land cover types that include smallholders in developing countries.
  • A cost effective and accurate system documenting the mitigation of atmospheric carbon levels as a global environmental public good and thus providing a way to compare and document project performance in climate change mitigation (a global environmental public good).
  • The system will facilitate projects that create climate adaptation, mitigation and conservation benefits by reinforcing their ability to demonstrate carbon benefits, thus making projects that include a carbon component more attractive.
  • The system will assist land use carbon project developers in selecting methods that combine livelihood benefits with climate change mitigation benefits.