Reference Levels

The fundamental challenge for REDD+ mechanisms is to demonstrate “additionality.” Additionality is simply defined for REDD+ as “greenhouse gas emission reductions or removals that are additional to what would have occurred without the REDD+ mechanism.” A reference level is the level of carbon emissions or removals that would have occurred in the absence of the financial mechanism and field interventions. The simplest method for calculating a reference level is using an average of historic annual emissions over the past 5, 10, or 15 years (known as a ‘reference period’), or just using a single recent annual emissions level. More complex methods involve projections of future emissions using models based on some combination of historic emissions, trends in emissions rates, and the expected behavior of the drivers of deforestation such as agricultural markets or infrastructure planning. The reference level is a key component of a REDD+ mechanism because incentives/credits are generated based on performance against the reference level. Therefore, a credible reference level is very important for determining how much financial compensation a country or project may receive.

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