Estimation of Emissions and Removals

All projects that generate Plan Vivo certificates (PVCs) must include a credible and conservative estimate of the climate benefits expected during the period covered by the project intervention. These are estimated by comparing emissions and removals under the baseline scenario, with the emissions and removals without project intervention.

If there is the potential for an increase in emissions, or reduction in removals outside the project area, this leakage must also be subtracted from the expected climate benefits.

The following should be included in your Project Design Document (PDD):

  • A summary of carbon pools and emission sources for which emissions and removals are estimated
  • A description of the approved approaches used to estimate emissions and removals under the baseline scenario and project intervention, including emissions from leakage
  • A full description of all data sources and assumptions used to create the estimate, and a justification on why they are appropriate.
  • An assessment of the uncertainty of estimated emissions and removals
Community Led Design

Carbon Pools

Click + to read about Carbon Pools

The PDD must include a table of carbon pools and emission sources, when estimating emissions and removals.

Carbon pools

  • Above-ground woody biomass
  • Below-ground woody biomass
  • Dead wood
  • Litter
  • Soil organic carbon
  • Long term wood products

Emission sources

  • Emissions from biomass burning
  • Emissions from fossil fuel combustion
  • N2O emissions from fertilizer application

Emissions and removals from all carbon pools and emission sources must be estimated in the baselines scenario, with the project intervention, and for leakage.

Carbon pools and emissions can be excluded as long as it will not lead to a significant over-estimation of climate benefits, such as:

  • If the carbon stock is expected to be lower, or emissions expected to be higher, in the baseline scenario than with the project intervention.
  • The carbon stock or emission source is insignificant in comparison to the carbon pools and emission sources included. In this case, total carbon stocks and emission sources excluded should be definitely less than 5% of the total carbon stock and emissions in all included pool and emission sources.

A proxy should be considered if a carbon pool or emission source is not excluded under these criteria, but also cannot be cost-effectively assessed and monitored. If a suitable proxy is not available, a deduction must be made from expected climate benefits, to ensure that they are not over-estimated.

Justification and evidence that exclusion criteria have been met must be provided in the PDD for all excluded carbon pools and emission sources.


Click + to read about Leakage

  • activities are in place to balance the reduction in income from regulations.
  • From project interventions which reduce agricultural productivity or access to timber, livestock grazing or other forms of resource, potentially leading to emissions being generated or removals being reduced.

The risk of leakage can be reduced by implementing activities to increase productivity and/or provide alternative sources of income which don’t contribute to the leakage.

Avoiding leakage can be achieved by increasing productivity and/or income by a minimum of an equal amount to any decreases that result from controls on agricultural practices, livestock grazing, timber harvesting or other resource use activities which have the potential to cause leakage.

It is far better to prevent leakage where possible, but if this is not an option, it must be estimated and/or monitored using an approved approach, so it can be subtracted from the carbon benefits. This involves identifying all project activities and stakeholder groups with the potential to cause leakage, and a description of mitigating measures to reduce likelihood.

For project activity where direct monitoring of leakage is not feasible, leakage emissions can be estimated, based on the assumption that any reduction in productivity or income that results from project activities which is not mitigated, will result in leakage.

The amount of leakage assumed should be equal to that required to result in a no net-loss of productivity or income as a result of project activities. If the areas that are likely to be affected by leakage are unclear, the worst-case scenario should be assumed.

Your PDD should include:

  • A description is required for each project activity which has the potential to cause leakage. This should include a description of the leakage mitigation measures to be implemented, and an estimate of potential leakage emissions, with details of how they were estimated and justification of any assumptions used.
  • A justification for any project activities that claim not to cause leakage.

Data Sources

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Approved approaches require the use of data and assumptions to estimate emissions and removals from the baseline scenario and project interventions.

Potential data sources include:

  • Surveys or research conducted within the project area or other representative areas
  • Analysis of maps and remote sending data
  • Published and unpublished papers and reports from the region
  • Default values from national or global studies.

Data sources used must contribute to a credible and conservative estimation of climate benefits, and projects are encouraged to make use of available sources of information where possible, to reduce the cost of data collection, and increase the speed of approval.

Where appropriate data is not available, or the cost of data collection is prohibitive, conservative assumptions can be used.

All assumptions and sources of data must be identified within the PDD. A justification of why they are appropriate should be provided:

  • For the baselines scenario (PDD Section G4)
  • For the project intervention (PDD Section G5)
  • For leakage (PDD Section G6)

For projects who conducted their own surveys, research or mapping, full details of data collection and analysis methodologies and results must be included in the PDD Annex.


Click + to read about Uncertainty

All estimates of emission reductions and removals have some uncertainty associated with them. In some cases, it will be possible to quantify this uncertainty.

Estimates of climate benefits with high levels of uncertainty are unlikely to be credible unless projects can demonstrate why the estimates are conservative.

Within PDD section G6, Plan Vivo projects are therefore required to:

  • Identify the main sources of uncertainty in estimates of climate benefits
  • Quantify these where possible
  • Describe why the treatment of uncertainty contributes to a conservative estimate of climate benefits.

Download the full Plan Vivo Guidance and Resources PDF here.