Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

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5.4.5. Verification

Verification by third-party institutions offers a way to provide confidence to governments, investors, project developers, NGOs, and the public at large regarding the validity of the carbon benefits claimed by a project. Third-party verification could be based on an assessment of the project's compliance with defined eligibility criteria. A single set of internationally accepted eligibility criteria would facilitate direct comparison of projects, whereas a variety of such criteria would result in projects and GHG benefits of differing quality.

Verification activities may include review of data or documentation (e.g., procedures, methodologies, analyses, reports), including interviews with project personnel; inspection or calibration of measurement and analytical tools and methods; repeat sampling and measurements; assessment of the quality and comprehensiveness of the data used in calculating the project baseline and offsets, therefore the confidence in the final claims; assessment of risks associated with the project as well as the carbon benefits; and the presence or absence of non-GHG externalities such as environmental and social impacts. Existing programs describe alternative ways that verification could be accomplished. Notable elements of these alternative programs include periodic verification of project performance against defined criteria (EcoSecurities, 1997; Trines, 1998b; Moura-Costa et al., 2000); an external evaluation panel, site visits, and third-party inspections (USIJI, 1996); and designation of verifiers by the proposer (World Business Council for a Sustainable Development, 1997).

Unlike projects in other sectors, the carbon stocks of LULUCF projects may require verification and monitoring beyond the project time horizon. The verification period will depend on the method chosen for accounting of carbon stocks (see Section 5.4.2). The carbon stock method may require verification until the end of the project; the average net carbon storage method may need verification in perpetuity. The ton-year approach may require verification for periods ranging from the project lifetime to some specified time period beyond the project lifetime, depending on the specifics of the accounting method chosen.

There has been little experience to date with third-party verification of the carbon stock of projects (Moura-Costa et al., 2000). The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) offers a model, however, for how verification might be accomplished and how verifiers might be accredited by an independent accreditation body. The FSC accredits organizations that inspect forest operations and grants labels certifying that the timber has been produced from well-managed forests. The FSC is funded by organizations other than the industries it monitors. Other institutions, such as SGS, are establishing certification councils with similar responsibilities.

The costs of verification by third parties can be alleviated by taking several steps:

  • A single set of eligibility criteria accompanied by standardized accounting and reporting methodologies will reduce the costs of developing such services.
  • Definition of acceptable confidence intervals will enable project developers to maximize their sampling efficiency and enable verifiers to minimize their costs.
  • Development of "group verification programs," which have been successful in other sectors, can make verification available to small-scale projects.

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