Carbon Trading and the Use of GIS

Where does GIS fit?

At this stage the focus is on monitoring, reporting and verification or MRV.

The market and how it breaks down

There are essentially 3 main areas:

1) Verification – both in the voluntary and non voluntary areas, auditors periodically will be required to check that a credit area is accurately reporting. Transparency in the system is essential. Auditors will need to have access to reporting tools which allow them to query the data from a credit area. For example, GIS can house and manage large forest databases. Can run forestry models, and display stand volume, carbon sequestration rates via tables and maps.

2) Decision support tools – the carbon offsets industry will be driven by governments. Developing countries will be able to derive considerable external finance from managing effectively their offsets programmes internally. Decision support tools need to be developed which allow non geographers to use spatial tools to help their decision making.

3) Micro level reporting and analysis – Individuals will increasingly be encouraged to opt into credit schemes to reduce their emissions and thus receive tax credits. Afforestation is the most profitable at this level at the moment. Thus a property owner can register their property. Provide emissions data, which is verified. They can then sell the earned credit and receive a tax benefit. This process would not only require transparency, but tools should be in place to allow landowners to conduct cost and benefit analyses. Thus project the effect of increased fertiliser, additional tree planting etc.

What are the opportunities in Web Application development?

There are a range of areas of potential focus:

1) Monitoring – as hand held devices such as IPad become more available. On site data entry will be ever more important. Thus the collection of tree species, trunk diameter, and other ecological information. For Flex and Silverlight developers the inability to run these applications on the current version of the IPad is an obvious barrier. But as new device appear from other manufacturers, building sophisticated interfaces for carbon data entry in the field will be a potentially important market.
2) Transparency – a GIS can not only manage the data, but allow the querying and display of data. It can translate timber data, for example, into actual carbon units. This can be used by auditors for verification purposes.
3) Decision Support Tools
4) Micro level web tools

Which US companies and organizations are currently active in the offsets field?

In forestry participants in carbon trading include timber investment management organizations (TIMO’s), industrial forest companies, land trusts, tribal landholders.

Forecon, Inc (www.foreconinc.com) are a forestry and natural resource management consulting firm. They use GIS to allow access to current forest inventories and forecasts of inventory growth.

The Challenges

Companies need to offer a team of experts. They need soil scientists, forestry experts, IT specialists. Most contracts will be awarded to these larger companies.

Most of the significant projects so far have been demos. But they are lower priority, and lack funding.

Web application development is both niche and often the last thing considered. We focus on geospatial Flex development. There is work to be done in convincing that the types of applications we build – user-centric – are important. Architecture and data collection remain the key areas of focus.

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