Louis Verchot - IPCC emission factors for greenhouse gas inventories in tropical peatlands

IPCC Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI) produces guidelines on compiling estimates of national greenhouse gas emissions and removals in a standardized way to ensure transparency, accuracy, completeness, consistency and comparability between countries. The IPCC Guidelines are intended to be used by all Parties to the UNFCCC and provide default data and methods for national greenhouse gas inventories. Presently the Revised 1996 Guidelines and Good Practice Guidance (2000, 2003) have been used by countries, but from 2013 onwards the 2006 Guidelines should be used by Annex I Parties. The 2006 revised guidelines had serious gaps with respect to wetlands, so in 2011, the IPCC began a 2-year exercise to fill those gaps. Notably, most of the tropical emission factors were based on temperate data and simply multiplied by 2. Together with colleagues we overcame methodological constraints to develop new emission factors for tropical wetlands. These new emission factors range between 1.5 tons of carbon per hectare per year for crops like Sago where the hydrology of the wetlands is only slightly disturbed to 20 tons in deeply disturbed intensively managed sites planted with Acacia. Oil palm is intermediate with emissions lf around 11 tons, on average. Having better emission factors is important for Indonesia as organic soils are major contributors to national emissions. New controversies are no the horizon, however. Many countries and donors are looking into options to reduce emissions in managed peatlands through water table management. Data suggest that raising the water table is ineffective at reducing these emissions, yet there are powerful interests aligned with this new polemic.