Mitigating climate change is one of the most important goals for sustainable development. There is a clear and pressing need to quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of all human activities so that efforts to reduce or mitigate those impacts can be effectively targeted.
The issue of GHG emissions attracts increasing focus from governments, lenders and other stakeholders. Reliable, consistent approaches are required to evaluate GHG emissions for all types of assets at different stages of development.
The GHG status of freshwater reservoirs – that is, any change in GHG emissions in a river basin resulting from the creation of a reservoir – has been discussed in both scientific and policy forums.
There are concerns around the uncertainty in estimates of GHG emissions from reservoir systems, and that these impacts are often attributed to hydropower projects, while reservoirs serve multiple purposes.
Our work on GHG emissions
The uncertainties around GHG emissions from reservoirs and the lack of consensus led to consultation between scientists, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), with the subsequent launch of the UNESCO/IHA GHG Research Project – GHG Status of Freshwater Reservoirs.
This Project, hosted by IHA in collaboration with UNESCO-IHP, aims to improve understanding of the impact of reservoirs on natural GHG emissions and of the processes involved, and to help fill knowledge gaps in this area.
This process led to the development of the UNESCO/IHA GHG Measurement Guidelines for Freshwater Reservoirs (2011) and the GHG Risk Screening Tool (released as a beta version) in 2013.
The intention of the guidelines was to improve the accuracy and consistency in measuring GHG emissions from reservoir systems. The screening tool was designed to provide an estimate of ‘gross’ GHG emissions from the reservoir and was based on empirical data from measurements taken at a range of existing reservoirs.
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