Greenhouse Gas Removal in the Land Sector - Addressing the Gaps (GGRiLS - Gaps)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Geographical Sciences

Abstract

Greenhouse Gas Removal in the Land Sector - Addressing the Gaps (GGRiLS - Gaps) is a Topic-specific proposal under the GGR programme. The Paris agreement commits countries to limit climate warming to "well below 2 degrees C". Modelling studies show that it is unlikely that we will be able to meet the target without removing a significant quantity of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Options for achieving this include large-scale afforestation, forest management, agricultural management to increase the uptake of carbon in soils, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage of emissions (BECCS).

196 countries have submitted emission reduction pledges (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, INDCs) with the land sector, accounting for about a quarter of planned mitigation, mainly from reduced deforestation and forest management. A large gap exists between pledged mitigation and what is necessary to achieve a 2 degrees target. Specific information is necessary on land sector Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) options in order to analyse their potential contribution to closing the emissions gap, and raise the ambition of countries' future pledges.

For GGR options to be realised it is necessary for them to be incentivised, and for this it is necessary for them to be assessed on a country basis. This should include both positive and negative consequences for the environment, food, and sustainable development. Country-level assessment is necessary to enable national policy makers to identify the level of ambition that would be needed to achieve given temperature targets, and what is feasible and desirable, at the scale at which decisions are made. This will inform the targeting of international finance and capacity building.

This project will quantify the emissions reduction gap in the land sector at a country level (for major countries). This will be done through an analysis of existing model scenarios and outputs, supplemented with outputs across the GGR programme as they become available. Country case studies will be identified for a deeper analysis of GGR potential using satellite data on land cover and biomass, and using a forest carbon accounting model. This information will be used in dialogues between scientists and policy makers to identify options and incentivise activity, laying out pathways for raising ambition in GGR deployment.

Methods for Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks vary across countries and across scientific approaches. Transparency in MRV, as required under the Paris Agreement, is essential to ensure mitigation effectiveness and further incentivise sustainable activity. This project will clarify the methodological approaches that are appropriate to adopt for accurately assessing GGR potentials and options within the land sector and across sectors (e.g. energy), working with both the science and policy communities. It will achieve breakthroughs in the joining up of approaches from several disciplines to support action towards the Paris agreement in the Land Sector.

Planned Impact

Quantification of the gap between current policy and future targets, and pathways to bridge the gap, will provide information of relevance to BEIS and the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in setting its 6th and subsequent carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act. It will further provide the UK government with necessary evidence both to understand the negotiating positions of other countries, and to target capacity building and UK climate finance. Improved GGR Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV) methods will contribute directly to the UK inventory, to transparency in interpreting different countries' data, and to confidence in providing international finance. JH is a science advisor to BEIS and to the CCC. Having just completed a secondment of Head of Climate at Government Office of Science JH has extensive networks across government including with DfID, Defra and FCO. The project will work directly with the UK inventory providers: Ricardo Energy and Environment (Project Advisory Board); and Forest Research (Project Partner).
The work will complement and use output from global initiatives: (1) The Global Carbon Project (JH Chairs the Land Use Working Group) (2) The Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) a collaborative initiative of the Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Climateworks, dedicated to realising the potential of forested and agricultural landscapes to mitigate climate change, benefit people, and protect the environment. (CLUA is on the Project Advisory Board); (3) the Global Forest Observing Initiative, a partnership of governments, NGOs and academics that work with countries to improve capacity around MRV (JH is associate member); (4) The annual updates of UNEP GAP report (JH has been a reviewer); (5) The UK Space Agency-funded FORESTS2020 project, working with tropical countries to improve their use of space data and carbon-climate scenario modelling for designing and meeting their INDC goals.

This project will contribute to the IPCC 6th Assessment Report. JH has re-applied as Lead Author for the land based mitigation chapter of IPCC Working Group III. We intend to publish preliminary outputs after 3 months to be cited and used in the IPCC Special Reports on "land use and climate change" (JH has applied as lead author), and the "1.5 degrees target". Outputs will also be made accessible to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with interests in the land use change impacts of GGR.

To further cement the link with international policy, Dr Lucia Perugini (EU land sector negotiator) and Giacomo Grassi (EU science advisor to the negotiations) will sit on the Advisory Board. To support country-based co-production and dissemination, Dr Jean Ometto (IPCC Inventory Task Force science advisor to the Brazilian Government), Prof N.H. Ravindranath (IPCC Inventory Task Force and science advisor to the Indian Government) will be part of the Project Working Group, with other representatives identified as the project continues.

Stakeholder engagement will be continuous throughout the project, with key engagement opportunities: a) at the outset to provide input into the project work plan, b) in a dedicated expert-stakeholder consultation workshop in month 7 to disseminate early findings, refine the project plan, identify case study countries and to provide relevant datasets, c) during the project, to provide feedback on emerging findings, and d) at a UNFCCC side meeting toward the end of the project. A budget of £17,000 is allocated to the workshop and side events.

Through our country case studies and partners, we will provide advice on options and pathways to sustainable GGR deployment to be included in countries' NDCs, that take account of co-benefits and trade-offs and enables the flow of climate finance. This will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular 1, 2, 13 and 15.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Under the Paris Agreement there are global goals to limit claim warming. Emissions must reduce following pathways identified by global models. Under the Paris Agreement there will be a process of a global stocktake to measure progress of greenhouse gas reduction against the pathway to the target. This will sue the data reported by countries in their national greenhouse gas inventories (GHGI). We previously identified a large discrepancy between global models and national GHGIs, with GHGIs finding 4 GtCO2/yr lower emissions than the global models. We carried out further analysis with inventory and modelling groups. We found that the discrepancy could be explained by the fact that the national GHGIs include larger areas of managed forests as being subject to anthropogenic (human) activity than the models. These managed forests are taking up carbon due to the fertilising effects of carbon divvies and nitrogen in the atmosphere, and due to climate change (e.g. extended growing seasons in norther forests). Now this discrepancy is understood, it can be taken account of in the global stocktake. If this is not done it may appear the more progress has been made and may risk underachieving emissions reductions necessary to each the Paris goals.

Grassi, G., House, J., Kurz, W. A., Cescatti, A., Houghton, R. A., et al. (2018). Reconciling global model estimates and country reporting of anthropogenic forest CO 2 sinks. Nature Climate Change, 1-35. 10.1038/s41558-018-0283-x
Exploitation Route These findings are being adopted by the research community and the policy community as reflecting by discussion in IPCC reports and guidelines
Sectors Environment

 
Description Our findings have been sued as the basis for EU policy on how to account for greenhouse gas emissions and removals in managed forests. They have contributed to updated methodological guidance in the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change good practice guidance methods for country greenhouse gas inventories.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description provided a new method for greenhouse gas accounting in forests that was adopted by the EU
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact We developed.a scientifically credible method for accounting for greenhouse gas fluxes in managed forests. This method was adopted as EU policy in 2018. It also has the potential to influence policy practice internationally.
 
Description "Carbon Brief" posts on issues related to key publications re. greenhouse gas reporting and accounting in the land sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I produced posts for Carbon Brief on the following topics:

Forests to provide a quarter of Paris Agreement's pledged mitigation

How new EU rules could 'hide' climate impact of harvesting forests

Credible tracking of land-use emissions under the Paris Agreement

Why BECCS might not produce 'negative' emissions after all
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-forests-provide-quarter-paris-agreements-pledged-mitigation
 
Description Contribution to Committee on Climate Change Reports on mitigation potential from Bioenergy and Land Use 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Committee on Climate Change provides expert evidence to the UK government related to the UK Climate Change Act, including the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in various sectors. They provided two new reports: one on bioenergy for which I was on the expert advisory group directly involved in preparing the report; one on land sue and agriculture, for which I was invited to two expert meetings. BEIS is using these to explore potential for emissions mitigation. These will be used as the evidence base for setting future carbon reduction budgets under the UK Climate Change Act.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Contribution to Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering report on Greenhouse Gas removals 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering published a report on Greenhouse Gas Removals in 2018. This looked at different methods available and calculated potentials globally and for the UK. There was a policy briefing as well as the main report, and a public launch with media. I was asked by the press for follow up information. The report is available to download. My contributions related to the NERC project were around potentials for land based removals, and issues round policy and governance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/greenhouse-gas-removal/
 
Description Gave two talks at the UNFCCC climate negotiations COP24 in Poland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I Gave two invited talks in the EU pavilion
"What do we know, and what needs to be known, about land-use change and climate at the science-policy interface?"
"Quantifying the contribution of the Land Use sector to the Paris Climate Agreement"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited keynote speaker at Chatham House working group on food and climate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This activity was intended to bring together various stakeholders interested in the potential of greenhouse gas reductions in the food sector. it included policy makers (Defra, BEIS), NGOs (e.g. Worldwide Fund for Nature, RSPB) and business practitioner organisations (e.g. National Farmers Union). The work will be ongoing as enough participants found it useful, with priority areas identified for further meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public lecture at Royal Institute UK as part of NERC-GGR programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a talk to inform the public about negative emissions and their role in claims policy re. the Paris Agreement, and to raise profile or the NERC GGR projects. Four of use spoke about our project areas. This raised a lot of interest which sparked email questions afterwards. There were also shared tweets. I personally was asked to give two further public talks, one of which I was able to accommodate, and one which I passed to a colleague.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Various media including national and international news and radio and newspapers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact My public engagement within the last year includes BBC News & World News live, Channel 4 News, China Global Television Network, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, the BBC Today Programme, Euractiv (an EU online journal aimed mostly at policy makers in which I led a letter from over 50 scientists on credible accounting in the forest sector). Some of these were specifically to do with my research work, some were advisory for e.g. articles being written some of which were specific on my area of research, others were more generally for my expertise on different aspects of climate change. Several resulted in follow up email requests for information or for further media appearances (in particular regional radio).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description invited presentation of results at key international organisations e.g. OECD, FAO, EU negotiators 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was invited to talk about the work on reconciling greenhouse gas emissions estimates from national GHG inventories with global model results. Also on the work on forest methods for accounting in managed forests. These talks included OECD, Paris, The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and EU policy makers and UNFCCC negotiators at meetings in Brussels and in the UK. Some of these talks led to further invitations. Several sparked follow up email questions. This contributed to raising awareness that led to (a) uptake of forest management accounting methods in EU policy, (b) including of the issues around transparency in reconciling estimates in IPCC Good Practice Guidance methods (to be published august 2019(, the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (to be published sept 2019) and is is in the scoping now the IPCC 6th Assessment report (to be published 2022)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018