Policy brief: Carbon accounting improvements for operationalising the Glasgow Climate Pact

The need for integrated policy action to mitigate climate change and conserve biodiversity has now been recognised in Article 38 of the Glasgow Climate Pact. This emphasises the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems, including forests and other terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

A fundamental change is needed in how carbon and emissions are accounted for and reported if we are to maximise the mitigation value of ecosystems by protecting their carbon stores.

Five areas are identified where carbon accounting improvements can be made to the Glasgow Climate Part. These include:

  1. Comprehensive accounts for all biosphere carbon, including for areas not under human management
  2. Reporting all carbon stock and stock changes as gross emissions not just present annual net emissions
  3. Reporting condition of carbon stocks relative to ecosystem integrity
  4. Reporting on the time horizon for carbon stock longevity and 5) reference levels that report on carbon carrying capacity for specific ecosystems
  5. Setting a reference level for the accounting period as a baseline for calculating change over time in carbon stocks.

Comprehensive carbon accounting would enable closing the gap in the global carbon budget between reported country inventories and what the atmosphere sees. The United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EA) provides the principles and framework that ensure carbon accounting is comprehensive, the condition of ecosystems and their carbon stocks are differentiated, and the risk of loss of carbon is identified.

Article authors

Heather Keith

Heather Keith

Heather is a Senior Research Fellow at Griffith University. Her research is aimed at understanding the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, particularly forests, to improve their management for conservation and climate change mitigation.
Virginia Young

Virginia Young

Virginia is a Director of the International Forests and Climate Programme for the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society (ARCS) working in the international policy arena on primary forests as part of a global collaborative research programme funded through Griffith University. 
Dr Brendan Mackey

Brendan Mackey

Project Director and Director of the Griffith Climate Action Beacon at Griffith University, contributing to community planning and engagement in forest projects.


Dr Heather Keith, Virginia Young and Prof Brendan Mackey (2022). Carbon Accounting Improvements for Operationalising the Glasgow Climate Pact Article 38. Griffith Climate Action Beacon Science Informing Policy Briefing Note 3/22, pp. 1-6. Brisbane, Australia: Griffith University. https://doi.org/10.25904/1912/4557