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Standardised Baselines: Opportunities and usability for developing countries

Solar panels in front of rural buildings
(Photo: Picture Alliance/Bildagentur-online)


With the initiation of the research project on the implications of standardised CDM baselines for LDCs and their use in national measurement, reporting and verification (MRV), the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) wanted to foster the further development of the regulatory framework for standardised baselines and illustrate their benefits for LDCs. The work was assigned to a consortium comprising the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and GFA Consulting Group. The research project focused on two specific questions: How can standardised baselines take account of the specific challenges faced in LDCs? And how must the regulatory framework for standardised baselines be advanced in order to exploit LCDs’ potential to the full?  


In addressing these questions, input was gathered in two differing, but mutually enhancing ways and then analysed. In a first step, a case study was used to look at how standardised baselines allow adaptation of existing CDM methodologies to take account of host country conditions. A guideline-supported expert survey was then conducted in a second step. The experts came from differing sectors: representatives from responsible authorities in the host countries (DNAs, Designated National Authorities) that had already submitted standardised baselines, consultants who had worked on developing standardised baselines, representatives from auditors accredited under the CDM (DOEs, Designated Operational Entities) and scientists who had worked on the research subject. 


The feasibility study showed that developing a standardised baseline for rural electrification that serves as-yet un-met human needs is not only technically possible, but it can also result in higher baseline emissions despite conservative estimates. This increases both the return on CDM projects or programmes of activities (PoAs) in the form of CERs and the financial incentive without compromising the environmental integrity of the CDM. The study also showed that quality assurance assessment of the data used is a key challenge faced. The UN regulations pose a huge obstacle for the responsible DNAs. Without support from industrialised countries, it appears questionable as to whether, given their lack of financial and staff resources, the DNAs can actually drive development of standardised baselines forward – especially in the case of LDCs.    

A mixed picture emerges when it comes to synergies between standardised baselines and national systems for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV). Where standardised baselines are not developed with the aim of covering basic human needs or where they were not based on emission trends, the results cannot be used directly and without restriction for national MRV. By way of contrast, the development of standardised baselines could promote both the building of staffing capacities and of local knowledge to support emissions data collection and aggregation. This generates synergies when knowledge transfer is ensured from the development of standardised baselines through to conducting national greenhouse gas inventories.   

The expert interviews conducted over the course of the project showed that the framework for standardised baselines has yet to meet the demand for (almost) universal application. The interviewees stressed that the selected approach does not cover all sectors’ needs. This is especially the case where emissions which occur within complex processes – such as in the cement sector – are reduced in such a way that it is difficult to separate out the various technologies involved. Using the expert interviews, recommendations were developed for use in advancing the standardised baselines framework. The German Emissions Trading Authority (DEHSt) published those recommendations in the form of a discussion paper in English (see further information below). 


The results of the feasibility study were implemented in a follow-up project. Working with the Ethiopian DNA, a standardised baseline was developed for projects on rural electrification. The results of the research project are also to be disseminated. For this purpose, the above-cited discussion paper will, for example, be published and sent to the members of the CDM Executive Board. In addition, the key findings of the study were presented to some 80 DNA representatives at the 15th Global DNA Forum and the research team was also involved in a UNFCCC Secretariat-hosted stakeholder dialogue on advancing the standardised baselines framework.

Official project title

Recommendations on the Advancement of the CDM Standardized Baselines Framework


Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

Other project participants

GFA Consulting

Project lifecycle

2013 – 2014


Christof Arens

Further information

Recommendations on the Advancement of the CDM Standardized Baselines Framework