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Carbon Assessment Tool for New Oil Palm Plantings Version: June 2014

The objective of this tool is to provide a practical methodology for oil palm growers to estimate the carbon stock of above- and below-ground biomass for land earmarked for new oil palm development. Based on this, the corresponding expected GHG
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  Version: June 2014 Carbon Assessment Tool for New Oil Palm Plantings   Version: June 2014 Document prepared by: Surin Suksuwan On behalf of the RSPO as requested by the P&C Review Taskforce.    Version: June 2014 1. Introduction 1.1 About This Tool The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an international multi-stakeholder and certification scheme for sustainable palm oil and its mission include advancing the production, procurement, finance and use of sustainable palm oil products; and to develop, implement, verify, assure and periodically review credible global standards for the entire supply chain of sustainable palm oil. The Principles and Criteria (P&C) for the production of sustainable palm oil is a framework developed by RSPO (2007) to define sustainable palm oil in practical and implementable terms that allows for palm oil to be certified as sustainable. There are eight Principles in total, of which Principle 7 is on the responsible development of new plantings. In achieving its mission, the RSPO embraces the concept of continuous improvement and in line with this, the P&C is to be reviewed and improved upon every five years. The first P&C review began with the initial public consultation in 2011 and the process continued throughout 2012 and early 2013 led by the P&C Review Taskforce. The revised P&C was endorsed by the RSPO Executive Board and accepted at the Extraordinary General Assembly by RSPO members on April 25th 2013. The revised P&C (2013) has a new Criterion 7.8 requiring that new plantation developments  are designed to minimise net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The indicators under this criterion include the identification and estimation of potential sources of emission and sinks of carbon associated with new developments. Another indicator is that new developments must be designed to minimise GHG emissions which takes into account avoidance of land areas with high carbon stocks and/or sequestration options. As a parallel process to the P&C review, the P&C Review Taskforce requested the RSPO secretariat to produce a new tool incorporating practical methodologies for growers to use to estimate the carbon stock of the land area associated with new developments. This tool is to be used in conjunction with the Palm GHG Calculator, henceforth referred to as PalmG(G , developed by RSPO (Chase et al  ., 2012). PalmGHG allows for the estimation of the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance for palm oil production from land clearing activities (land cover change) combined with GHG emissions associated with the subsequent production of crude palm oil (CPO) and palm kernel oil (PKO). Default values for the carbon stock of the previous land cover is provided in the PalmGHG and these are combined with emissions based on the input of agronomic data such as fertiliser, other inputs and fossil fuel use, etc. 1.2 Objective of This Tool The objective of this tool is to  provide a practical methodology to growers for estimating the carbon stock of above- and below-ground biomass for land earmarked for new oil palm development. Based on this, the corresponding expected GHG emission associated with the resulting land cover change to oil palm can be estimated.  This methodology is intended to be compatible with current processes required under Principle 7 –  primarily the soil survey, SEIA and HCV assessments –  and should be used in conjunction with the PalmGHG Calculator (developed to account for and report emissions from existing operations). In practice, this tool details out the steps to be taken in assessing the carbon stock in the land area where new planting development is to take place, from the pre-screening process until the carbon values expressed in tonnes of carbon per hectare (tC/ha) are derived. The carbon stock values can then be plugged into the PalmGHG , which would estimate the GHG balance for the entire planned palm oil production cycle.  Version: June 2014 By using this tool provides a methodology for how to assess the carbon stock in the land area where new planting development is proposed, so as to identify high carbon stock areas that should be avoided as well as opportunities for carbon sequestration, in fulfilment of the RSPOs Criterion 7.8. Using this data in combination with Palm GHG allows the net GHG emissions of the proposed development to be estimated and appropriate avoidance and mitigation measures to be planned prior to the development occurring. 1.3 Tool Development The main steps involved in developing this tool were a review of literature related to carbon assessments for the forestry and agriculture sectors in tropical regions of the world (with a particular emphasis on Malaysia and Indonesia); and interviews with relevant people from oil palm producing companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), consultant companies, research institutions and remote sensing experts. Progress with the development of the tool was presented at the RSPOs Roundtable  RT  in Singapore on 30 th  October 2012 during which useful feedback was obtained from participants of the RTs Prepa ratory Cluster 5 on Greenhouse Gases. There was also an information sharing session with the RSPOs Biodiversity & (CV Working Group B(CV -WG) sixth meeting of its Compensation Task Force in Kuala Lumpur on 28 th  November 2012, which was aimed at improving alignment between the HCV and carbon assessment processes. Of particular relevance is the experience of Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and its subsidiary, SMART, in conducting carbon stock assessments in relation its new oil palm concessions in Central and West Kalimantan, as it one of the few such pioneering initiatives by oil palm growers at time of this tools development  . This is documented as a case study in Appendix 1. Appendix 2 discusses the limitations of the tool, gaps identified and opportunities. In the process of data gathering and developing the tool, much emphasis was given to minimising the resources that need to be mobilised, through aligning with other processes that are already mandatory under the RSPOs Principle 7, particularly the social and environmental impact assessments (SEIA), the soil survey and the HCV assessment. Attention was also given to the land cover categories generated by the work of the RSPOs Biodiversity & (CV Working Group (BHCV-WG) as part of a separate tool being developed to assess past land use changes (Gunarso et al  ., 2013). Emphasis was also given to the use of widely available remote sensing technology (including radar and optical sensors mounted on satellite and aerial platforms) to stratify land cover that allow for biomass (and therefore carbon stock) estimated. In conjunction with this tool, a basic reporting framework for projected emissions/sequestrations arising from new plantings has also been developed. There will be future revisions to this tool based on the outcome of implementation period (ending 31 st   December 2016) for promoting best practices for reporting to the RSPO as stated in Criterion 7.8 of the revised RSPO P&C (2013). The RSPO Emission Reduction Working Group (ERWG), which was formed after the 10 th  General Assembly of the RSPO in Medan, Indonesia on 14 th  November 2013, will oversee these revisions.  Version: June 2014 2 . Carbon Accounting within the RSPO In order to comply with the recently-introduced Criterion 7.8, information on the carbon stock in the proposed new planting area needs to b e combined with a tool to forecast the balance of emissions and sequestration associated with a proposed development. The RSPO has developed its preferred GHG accounting tool, i.e. the PalmGHG, which focuses partly on the emissions from the production of oil palm through the collection of agronomic data, supplemented with estimates of emissions associated with land use change derived from default values provided for GHG emissions from the change of land cover from any one of 10 different land cover classes (or strata). Net GHG emissions over the full crop cycle (the default value is 25 years) are calculated by adding the emissions released during land clearing, crop production and crop processing, and subtracting from these emissions the sequestration of carbon in the standing crop and in any conservation areas as well as avoidance of emissions from operations such as methane capture, POME management and the maintenance of water tables in areas of peat under oil palm. The contribution of land clearing to GHG emissions in PalmGHG is averaged out over the full crop cycle, together with the emission and sequestration values from other aspects of palm oil production, so that the average emissions in any one year of this cycle can be estimated. The emissions are presented as t or g CO 2  equivalents (CO 2 e), per hectare and per unit of product: i.e. per tonne of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) or per tonne of Crude Palm Kernel Oil (CPKO) (Chase et al  ., 2012).   PalmGHG provides default carbon stock values for previous land cover 1  classes based on inputs from the scientific panel of the RSPO s  GHG WG2 (Working Stream 3)..   In the current version of PalmGHG, previous land cover classes are: primary forest, logged forest, secondary re-growth (average of logged forest and food crops), shrub land, grassland, rubber, cocoa under shade, coconut, food crops (average of annual and perennial crops in Papua New Guinea) and oil palm . However, these land cover classes and their default carbon stock values are being re-evaluated by the RSPO ERWG following a thorough review by Agus et al  . (2013a) of literature data and satellite images to identify land cover changes associated with oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Depending on the decision of the RSPO ERWG, later versions of PalmGHG may have different land cover classification and default values. For any land cover, the total carbon stock could be divided into different pools. The standard division of carbon pools as defined by the IPCC are aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, dead wood, litter and soil organic matter (see Section 4 for more elaboration on these carbon pools). Table 1 provides a summary of available methods at the planned plantation scale  for measuring the different pools, and an analysis of pros and cons of each option. It is assumed that at least in the first place this tool applies to new plantings to be undertaken by plantation companies, and that the size of new planting areas is in the range of hundreds of hectares to tens of thousands of hectares 2 . 1  In this document, a distinction is made between land use  and land cover   following Di Gregorio &  Jansen (2000). The definition used for land cover   is "the observed (bio)physical cover of the earth's surface", while for land use it is "the arrangements, activities, and inputs people undertake in a certain land cover type to produce, change or mantain it". However in most other documents, "land use" and "land cover" are used interchangeably. 2  Interviews conducted by WRI in the process of developing its Suitability Mapper tool indicated that the common minimum size preference expressed by companies was 5,000ha (Gingold et al  ., 2012).  Version: June 2014 Table 1: Summary of Methods for Measuring Biomass in Different Carbon Pools Carbon pool Method Relative amount of resources needed Notes Above ground (tree) biomass 1  Destructive sampling and direct measurement of biomass High  –   labour intensive    Destructive sampling is usually done at a very limited scale in order to produce allometric equations 2  that are more specific to the particular area. Comprehensive random plot sampling involving measurements of dbh and height (optional) of trees and use of allometry to estimate carbon stock. Moderate to High depending on the size of the area to be covered, accessibility (terrain, availability of access road etc.) and the range of different land covers present.    Extensive ground reconnaissance has to be conducted in order to identify the different land covers present.    Sufficient number of plots need to be established in order to have statistically representative sampling Measure tree height and crown area using very high resolution airborne remote optical sensors (e.g. aerial photo, 3D digital aerial imagery) or airplane-mounted laser remote sensor (e.g. LiDAR), and use allometry to estimate carbon stock. High  –   cost of procuring images is high and method is technically demanding.    No allometric equations based on crown area are available.    Less accurate in complex canopies of mature tropical forest as signal saturates.    Field based measurement still needed for calibration and verification of carbon stock estimation. Stratification of land cover using remote sensing/aerial survey and GIS analysis, followed by targeted plot sampling to verify default carbon stock values for different land cover types. Moderate  –   cost of remote sensing and GIS analysis offset by lower number of plots required. Freely available satellite images or moderate resolution (e.g. Landsat) can be used.    Stratification of land cover allows for sampling plots to be established more accurately (targeted sampling).    Number of sampling plots greatly reduced compared to random sampling. Below ground (root) biomass Destructive sampling and direct measurement of biomass. High  –   labour intensive.    Destructive sampling is usually done at a very limited scale in order to produce allometric equations that are more specific to the particular area. Use default ratio or allometric equation for calculating root biomass as a function of aboveground biomass. Low  –   no sampling needed.    Root:shoot ratios and allometric equations for calculating root biomass available from various sources.
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