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FEATURE STORY April 24, 2018

Reducing Carbon Emissions, Let Soil and Trees Do the Dirty Work

World Bank Group


  • A first-of-its-kind landscape accounting approach to measure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions helps unlock the benefits to rural farmers that adopt sustainable land use practices.
  • ISFL’s Emission Reductions Program Requirements show countries what they need to have in place to receive payments for emission reductions in multiple sectors, including forestry, agriculture and energy.
  • The requirements are part of the BioCarbon Fund’s broader support to countries rewarding them for climate-smart land-use planning, policies and practices.

By now, most of us are familiar with the role forests play in absorbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change around the world. But forests are just one part of a broader landscape that often includes water resources and farming that can also play an important role in climate change mitigation.

The challenge, however, is how to systematically measure emission reductions across a landscape, in order to unlock results-based payments. And how can this be done in a straightforward way?

That’s where the BioCarbon Fund’s Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) comes in. In addition to the country programs it supports, the Initiative has pioneered a way to report and account for emission reductions across a diverse landscape. ISFL’s Emission Reductions Program Requirements show countries what they must have in place to receive payments from the ISFL for emission reductions generated by a range of sustainable activities across a landscape. The requirements are part of the BioCarbon Fund’s broader support to countries rewarding them for smarter land use planning, policies and practices.

In recent years, tropical forest countries have significantly improved their reporting and accounting methods for measuring emission reductions in the forestry sector, but many countries find it difficult to accurately report emissions data in other sectors. To respond to this challenge, ISFL built into its requirements a phased approach to emission reductions accounting. This approach allows a country to begin accounting, and receiving payments, for emission reductions from a limited set of land use categories that meet ISFL requirements. Countries can then add data from other sectors into their ISFL accounting, and receive payments for emission reductions from these sectors, as they become available.

These ISFL requirements are a significant new tool not only for countries, but also for the broader climate change community, as they will help test approaches to comprehensive landscape emissions reporting and accounting that could be expected of future emission reductions programs. It is hoped they will form the basis for countries to pilot innovative approaches to emissions accounting at the landscape level, and foster programs that change the trajectory of land use across jurisdictions over the long term. More than 100 countries included forests and land use in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which spell out how they commit to reducing their emissions.


More on ISFL

The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) is a multilateral facility that promotes and rewards reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increased sequestration through better land management, including REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), climate smart agriculture, and smarter land use planning and policies. The ISFL will pilot programs and interventions at a jurisdictional scale in order to test approaches and share lessons learned broadly.