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

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


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.


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