The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and its partners are launching a set of tools and resources at the forefront of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) for the cooking and household energy sector which will help countries include bold commitments in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and track them, helping to solve a key piece of the climate change and air pollution challenge.
Many countries have included household energy in their NDCs, an emissions category that must be tackled to achieve Paris Agreement targets. Household air pollution, largely from open fires and inefficient stoves, is responsible for 12 per cent of ambient (indoor) air pollution. More than 50 per cent of global anthropogenic black carbon emissions are from household energy and 120 megatons of climate pollutants are emitted annually from open fires and inefficient stoves, according to the Clean Cooking Alliance.
“The bottom line is that we know we can’t meet the 1.5 degree target without including household energy in emissions reductions,” said Elisa Derby, the Senior Director of Research, Evidence and Learning for the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA). “There are also so many co-benefits to clean cooking interventions that can support healthy development alongside the climate benefits, including health, livelihoods, gender, and forest degradation. Addressing household energy can provide wins on many levels.”
International carbon markets will be a hot topic at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland this year as parties work to finalize Article 6, the section of the Paris Agreement that establishes international carbon markets. These cooperative approaches mean that countries could include more ambitious targets in their NDCs and achieve some of these commitments by transferring their mitigation outcomes.
While all countries are eligible, Article 6 is potentially beneficial to developing countries because their emissions are often very low and they have scarce resources to address them. This can mean they’re forced to pursue the least costly options to meet their obligation under their NDCs, which are sometimes less effective or efficient. Article 6 means they’ll have the opportunity to sell credits to high-emitting developed countries and use those resources to invest in more expensive but better emissions reducing technologies. In the case of cookstoves, this may mean better quality stoves which reduce wood use and indoor air pollution.
When it comes to measuring their emissions, developing countries are at a disadvantage because they tend to lack technical capacity for measuring their baseline emissions and the amount their emissions have reduced, making it difficult to precisely quantify whether they’ve exceeded their NDCs and by how much.
To successfully achieve NDC goals and participate in Article 6, countries will need effective MRV. Measurement is a vital part of understanding where emissions come from, how they’ll change in the future, and determining the most effective mitigation. Reporting and verification is necessary to determine whether measures are being properly implemented and working as expected. Essentially, MRV is about developing an emissions baseline and then measuring future emissions off that baseline to determine whether a project is working. For developing countries to successfully sell their carbon credits, they’ll need to be able to accurately quantify their emissions. This work builds on the Gold Standard methodology for quantifying and monitoring emissions of black carbon and other SLCPs launched by the CCAC and its partners in 2015.
“Anytime you’re trying to have a successful carbon market, you need to have confidence in the product that’s being sold or traded,” said Michael Johnson, the technical director at Berkeley Air Monitoring Group. “You need to have methods and ways to quantify the carbon reductions so that people are confident that the methods are strong and transparent and the reductions are real.”
There aren’t many guidelines for exactly how countries should measure and report their emissions reductions from cookstove programs, which means countries are left to their own devices to develop them.
“Some of those could be very good, and some of those may not be very good, but having a bunch of different approaches applied could cause confusion and hurt the credibility of the system,” said Johnson.
Streamlining the methodology that countries use to measure clean cooking targets will help reduce discrepancies and lend credibility to clean cooking targets and reductions, potentially increasing the price developing countries can get.
Their methodology outlines the necessary aspects of a strong clean cooking NDC target, including defining the size and characteristics of the target population, using internationally recognized ISO technology and fuel quality standards, specifying the stove-fuel combinations that will be disseminated (such as improved biomass, liquid petroleum gas, or electric induction stoves), as well geographic information about the region where the intervention will occur. It also includes various best practices, including making the targets locally relevant, supporting ongoing work by the national government, and ensuring targets are specific, measureable, and deadlined.
Clean cooking makes for a particularly challenging sector when it comes to accuracy.
“What we’ve heard from country partners is that it feels difficult to develop realistic goals and targets for clean cooking and household energy work,” said Derby. “So the reason we’re doing this is to provide the knowledge and support needed to make setting appropriate goals and tracking them accurately less confusing and complicated.”
Part of the issue is that cooking appliances are a distributed technology that operates and changes at the level of each individual household.
“You’re trying to track a bunch of little distributed sources, potentially over an entire country, as opposed to something that’s more consolidated, like changing power plant energy sources or infrastructure programs that may be a little bit easier to monitor from a high level. There are a lot of idiosyncrasies and unique challenges for setting up an MRV system for household energy.”
Johnson adds that the tool should help ease the burden for countries looking to include clean cooking targets because it gives them a template instead of creating their own from scratch. The money saved can be invested back into additional clean cooking projects. Even for countries who don’t explicitly have clean cooking targets in their NDCs but do have related goals such as stopping deforestation or developing cleaner fuels, the tool helps pave the way for measuring clean cooking projects in the future.
“Our vision is to try to put out guidance that is pretty modular so countries and programs can can pick and choose the pieces that are appropriate to their situation while still making it clear what best practices are so that markets work and people have confidence in the system, which we hope will lead to real progress,” said Dana Charron, the Managing Director of Berkeley Air Monitoring Group.
The fact that this work is targeting black carbon makes it particularly important, given that it’s a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) accelerating the rate of climate change. It has a particular impact on icy regions like the Arctic and the Himalayas because it reduces their ability to reflect sunlight and causes them to melt faster. Research shows that even if the world hit Paris targets of 1.5 degrees of warming, the Himalayas would warm by 2.1 degrees, causing a third of its glaciers to melt.
The CCAC’s work bridging climate and development is a vital foundation for this work. Reducing SLCPs like black carbon not only slows the rate of near term warming but also provides critical co-benefits such as reduced deaths and hospital visits from air pollution, as well as reduced crop losses from air pollution. The CCAC has worked with countries to develop national plans that include cooking emissions reductions as well as developing rigorous testing standards to ensure the efficacy of these reductions.