Integrating Remote-Sensing and Ground-based Observations for Estimation of Emissions and Removals of Greenhouse Gases in Forests

Submitted by Climate Risk Institute | published 13th Sep 2022 | last updated 11th Oct 2022
Integrating Remote-Sensing and Ground-based Observations for Estimation of Emissions and Removals of Greenhouse Gases in Forests

Executive Summary

This resource was submitted by the Climate Risk Institute for use by the CanAdapt Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice.

This article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text.

The Global Forest Observations Initiative

The Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) was established1 by the Group on Earth Observations in 2011, to assist countries to produce reliable, consistent and comparable reports on change in forest cover and forest use and associated anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions or removals.

The Initiative will:

a) Work with the Committee on Earth Observing Satellites2 to facilitate long-term provision of satellite earth observation data to countries. The Committee has established the Space Data Coordination Group specifically to address remote sensing requirements of GFOI.

b) Provide methodological advice on the use of remotely sensed data together with ground-based observations to estimate and report greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with forests in a manner consistent with the greenhouse gas inventory guidance from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is required by decisions by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for voluntary implementation of REDD+ activities.

c) Identify research and development needed to improve data utility and accuracy of national forest monitoring systems that serve the greenhouse gas reporting requirements of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as supporting broader environmental monitoring needs.

d) Help countries develop capacity to utilise earth observation data in national forest monitoring systems for reporting greenhouse gas emissions and removals. The GFOI capacity building effort complements readiness activities including those of the UN-REDD4 initiative and the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.

The purpose of the Methods and Guidance Document is to provide methodological advice identified in point b), linked to the data made available via the Space Data Coordination Group referred to in point a). Methodological advice and assistance with data access provided by the GFOI is potentially of interest to all countries wishing to make use of remotely sensed and ground-based data for forest monitoring and reporting. The initial focus is on reduced emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and associated activities, called REDD+ in the climate negotiations. 

The intended users of the Methods and Guidance Document are:

1. Technical negotiators working in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who may be interested to see how REDD+ activities can be described and linked to the greenhouse gas methodology of the IPCC, as required by decisions of the Conference of Parties.

2. Those responsible for design decisions in implementing national forest monitoring systems. 3. Experts responsible for making the emissions and removals estimates. The level of technical detail increases progressively through the Methods and Guidance Document. User groups 1 and 2 will probably be more interested in the earlier chapters, whereas the whole document will be relevant to user group

3. User group 1 is by definition based in-country; user groups 2 and 3 may be from countries or in organisations and initiatives working with countries, such as UN-REDD and the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and bilateral and multilateral arrangements.

The Methods and Guidance Document aims to increase mutual understanding between these user groups, and with the relevant science, technical and policy communities, to guide the collection of relevant forestry data, and to assist sharing of data and experiences. It aims to complement the guidance from the IPCC, the approach taken by the UN-REDD Programme and the GOFC-GOLD Sourcebook, and has been produced in cooperation with these initiatives.

The Methods and Guidance Document complements the guidance from the IPCC by providing advice that takes account of the accumulated experience on the joint use of remote sensing and ground-based data, and is specific to REDD+ activities as set out in the Cancun agreements. Although guidance from the IPCC does treat deforestation in the Kyoto Protocol context8 , in general it does not describe methodologies specific to REDD+ activities, as these were not specified until after the IPCC guidance and guidelines were written.

The Methods and Guidance Document cross-references the IPCC guidance but does not repeat it. The word ‘guidance’ is used to refer to guidance from the IPCC; the Methods and Guidance Document uses ‘advice’ to mean new material that is complementary to IPCC guidance.

The Methods and Guidance Document recognizes the importance of national circumstances in determining the optimal mix of remote sensing and ground-based observations in the development of GHG inventories. National circumstances include current and future availability of technical expertise and institutional capacity to acquire and process data; the community, land-tenure, stakeholder, legal and administrative arrangements associated with forestry and other land uses; the existence or otherwise of a forest inventory or other historical statistical data on land use; data accessibility, and issues such cloud cover, which can restrict the use of optical remote sensing methods, or terrain which makes access for taking ground measurements difficult.

Besides supporting the requirements to produce measurable, reportable and verifiable emissions and removals associated with REDD+, the Methods and Guidance Document should be relevant to countries for:

  • estimating emissions and removals from the broader Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry sector;
  • internal reporting and to assist with assessing the effects of domestic policies and actions;
  • planning for other policy goals;
  • providing information for country reports to the Global Forest Resource Assessment of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Further resources