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Assessing the Climate Impacts of Cookstove Projects: Issues in Emissions Accounting

SEI Policy Brief

Author(s): Lee, C.M. ; Lazarus, M.
Year: 2013

This policy brief, based on an SEI working paper, focuses on a key precondition for cookstove projects to obtain carbon finance and to ensure environmental integrity: credible, scientifically robust methodologies to measure and verify emission reductions.

Carbon finance is gaining appeal as a way to scale-up improved cookstove projects while also meeting the need for standardization and accountability. Researchers have found the potential volume of credits could exceed 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. To be viable and ensure environmental integrity, these projects need credible, scientifically robust methodologies to measure and verify emission reductions. The authors review existing methodologies, drawing on a literature review as well as interviews with market actors and technical experts, and identify gaps that need to be filled.

Cookstove projects can generate offsets through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and from three voluntary offset programs: the Gold Standard, the American Carbon Registry, and the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). To date, all but one project has used the CDM, the Gold Standard, or both.

Emission reductions from cookstove projects are calculated as the product of the amount of woody biomass saved, the fraction that is considered non-renewable biomass, the net calorific value of the biomass, and an emission factor for the fuel used. Each of these factors presents technical challenges that would benefit from further methodology work.

The authors note that cookstove projects' climate benefits are not limited to carbon dioxide; they can also significantly reduce emissions of black carbon, carbon monoxide, and total non-methane hydrocarbons. However, these benefits are not yet quantified by the methodologies, nor can credits be earned for them.

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