Developers urge "peer review" of data for UN's cookstoves metric

2023-12-06 13:50

A group of project developers in the cleaner cookstoves sector has called for greater peer review of data and assumptions in a recently-proposed conservative metric expected to have a major bearing on the future issuance of credits.

A joint letter from the Project Developer Forum (PDF) gave a broad welcome to proposals from the UN's climate arm last week to use a new method to calculate the fraction of non-renewable biomass (fNRB) - a key parameter in such projects - but it also highlighted concerns about some data and assumptions.

"We must ensure that a greater sophistication in statistical modelling is matched with the most relevant local data inputs, including using satellite technology and ground-sourced data," the PDF said in its joint letter.

The fNRB calculation attempts to measure the volume of firewood collection above what can be sustainably harvested.

But according to the UN, ratings agencies and researchers, and some project developers themselves, there are cookstoves projects that apply an excessively high assumption (i.e the least conservative) for fNRB metric – leading to accusations of overcrediting.

"Globally, the data gaps for fNRB calculations are wide, and we call on host country

governments, researchers, and funders to take up this challenge," the lobby's letter added.

Specifically, the lobby highlighted concerns related to the use of a global default for per capita wood consumption; the absence of a calculation for secondary fuel consumption; differentiation between the use of charcoal versus wood; and the modelling of wood supply in particular locations.

The PD lobby was responding to a proposed reset of the fNRB metric by the UN's climate arm in a consultation launched last week.

These proposals include the use of draft national fNRB default values for Sub-Saharan Africa based on new statistical modelling by a Yale researcher and the peer-reviewed analysis and data tool known as “MoFUSS”.

As a result, sub-national fNRB estimates are made available for the first time, say developers.

"With the right data inputs, this new model could allow for emission reduction calculations to be grounded in detailed localized analysis, enabling greater accuracy," the letter said.

The PDF urged a standardisation of fNRB approaches and for key registries and standards bodies to work together to align on guidelines for the application of new fNRB defaults.

They also called for a unified approach for existing projects and credits that use 'Tool 30' inherited from the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.  

The PDF said greater confidence in accurate, locally relevant fNRB values could prompt higher prices for cookstove and clean cooking fuel carbon credits, an assertion made against the backdrop of drastically weaker prices across the sector.

The lobby added that while lower fNRB numbers may provide buyers with

greater certainty that 'one tonne = one tonne', it cautioned against "tunnel vision" in assessing the net biomass in a landscape.

"We risk underfunding projects that protect old forests, valuable trees, and preserve biodiversity," it said, referring to the UN's proposed fNRB calculation to give equal value to carbon stored in old growth rainforest and the carbon stored in fast-growing saplings.

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