The Accounting of Biological Sinks and Sources Under the Kyoto Protocol - A Step Forwards or Backwards for Global Environmental Protection?

Special Report 1998
WBGU, Bremerhaven, © 1998

75 pages (download as pdf, 682 KB), 12 figures, ISBN 3-9806309-1-9 Out of print

The Kyoto-Protocol to the United Nations Fraemwork Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted in December 1997 in Kyoto, contains, for the first time, quantified, legally binding commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized countries. It also gives consideration to the function of biological systems as sources and sinks uf greenhouse gases. Offsetting emission reduction commitments against the sources and sinks of terrestrial ecosystems was a very contentious issue throughout the negotiations for the Kyoto-Protocol.
In the Special Report 1998 presented here, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) assesses the Kyoto Protocol with respect to the accounting of biological sources and sinks. In principle, the Council supports the idea of linking climate protection and the conservation of sinks. However, the Council considers the form in which biological sources and sinks are accounted in the Kyoto Protocol to be inadequate and in need of improvement if the objectives of climate protection and biodiversity conservation are both to be served. The present accounting approach can lead to incentives with negative impacts upon climate protection, biodiversity conservation and soil protection. In addition, many uncertainties and imponderables attach to the reduction in net emissions that is achievable by means of terrestrial sinks. Even slight climate changes can lead to sinks becoming sources. Over the long run, fossil fuel emissions can not be compensated for by the terrestrial biosphere.
The Council analyses in the Special Report presented here the provisions of the Kyoto-Protocol and presents the state of knowledge on the source and sink potentials of terrestrial ecosystems and on the existing uncertainties and unresolved issues. This forms the basis for an assessment of the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol as well as for recommendations for the interpretation and concrete application of these provisions.

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