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Accounting for Carbon Flows: Comparing the Principles of the UNFCCC and the SEEA

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The System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) views CO2 sequestration as an ecosystem service. The Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) allocates CO2 removals to forestry sectors, effectively enabling ownership and trade of sequestered carbon. Such ownership is not explicit in the SEEA. Moreover, interpretations of human inducement that are used to justify the classification of sequestered carbon as “anthropogenic” differ substantially between the UNFCCC and the SEEA. Accounting dissonances and uncertain ownership rules can affect industry perspectives on their operations, and ultimately competitive and strategic position. Problems surrounding the accounting for human-induced change and the allocation of ownership rights are likely to hamper the transition of carbon from collectively owned ecosystem input to individually owned commodity.

Keywords: carbon accounting; ecosystem input; human-induced change; trading and ownership

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Integrated Sustainability Analysis, School of Physics, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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