Tool to identify potential impacts of development projects on the local carbon budget and greenhouse gas emissions

Conservation Biology Institute is working with the The InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) to develop the basic elements of a Carbon Calculator tool to help IDB staff identify and address potential impacts of development projects on the local carbon budget and greenhouse gas emissions.  The carbon calculator is being developed as an integrated component of the IDB Decision Support toolkit (IDB-DSS) that is currently being used by the IDB-Environmental Safeguards Group (ESG) to identify and address potential environmental risks associated with development projects for which their financial support has been requested.

The carbon calculator will provide a risk screening function in the IDB-DSS to indicate the potential amount of above ground carbon that might be affected by an IDB funded project in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The best available carbon databases will be used to quantify current carbon stocks and highlight below ground carbon hotspots in the project area. The carbon calculator will let users delineate the geographic extent of the proposed operation (project, program or policy) and its expected area of impact (the broader project footprint). It will summarize carbon estimates from available peer-reviewed and geo-referenced carbon datasets for the area. The operation footprint will be described in terms of the potential carbon loss and estimated GHG emissions with documented uncertainty inherent with the source data and subsequent processing.

The calculator is meant to support high-level risk assessment analyses for development projects.  The output will indicate whether the risk of carbon loss is ranked in the “medium to high” category.  Range thresholds for this “medium to high” category will be defined in concert with IDB.  The calculator is not being developed to provide a robust detailed calculation of carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions that will result from a specific development activity, but to flag projects that represent institutional risk from climate change impacts.

Phase I of this carbon calculator tool project will provide a prototype carbon risk-screening tool for IDB projects. It will be available to all IDB units and will be designed to meet the requirements of ESG (Environment and Safeguards), CCS (Climate Change Science) and RND (Research and Development) project leading units.  This prototype will allow IDB to test the tool’s ability to provide sufficient information to assess the carbon footprint of development projects.  CBI aims to expand the carbon calculator application in the future to address broader needs of the user community.

One or two pilot projects with well-documented and ground-truthed datasets will be selected by the project team to evaluate the effectiveness of the Carbon Calculator.  Evaluation results will be used by CBI to revise the current and future versions of the tool as required.  

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