FLINT (the Full Lands Integration Tool) has many features that allow countries to manage emissions in the land sector, which include agriculture, forestry and other land use. This article only highlights some important features that could be used to argue for FLINT’s use.
Collaboration Beats Competition Every Time
FLINT is the result of international collaboration. A group of world experts designed and built the FLINT using their more than 20 years of experience. Any institution that decides to start using FLINT leapfrogs to an advanced system that has been tried and tested, basically acquiring more than 20 years of experience overnight. Additional experience is gained at several times the regular speed of learning: through open source collaboration, FLINT is continuously updated and improved, so users receive updates and lessons learned from experiences from around the globe.
The burden of maintaining and improving the system is spread across users to the advantage of all. Users with more resources and expertise tend to invest more, but they still benefit from more modest contributions or even from feedback received from other users. Experience has shown that the diversity of users results in a higher quality of the tool.
Users do not need to invest in the most complicated phase of system development, i.e. designing, building and maintaining a reliable system that meets international standards. Surveys indicate that most countries require systems that are almost identical with small variations to meet country specific circumstances. Using the jointly developed FLINT reduces duplication and frees up resources to focus on adapting the flexible FLINT system to the local circumstances. This is crucial as current measurement systems cannot deliver the information policy makers need and both funds and expertise are in limited supply (even globally).
Open source collaboration also prevents that users are locked-in with one vendor or service provider. FLINT users can switch between providers or can run their own system. Moreover, open source will foster different support systems for FLINT implementation because any user can help another user, or can become a service provider or develop a commercial service to assist others. This will create a rich support environment that provides the types of services required by each user.
Systematic Improvement of Accuracy
FLINT provides the ideal framework to reach the required accuracy faster.
Several recent developments are driving the need for increased accuracy of MRV (Measurement, Reporting and Verification) systems. For countries, domestic needs are often driving the minimum accuracy but of course there are also some important international drivers e.g., the reporting requirements under the Paris Agreement and results-based payments of various types. In the land sector, most countries struggle to meet the accuracy required.
FLINT supports fast accuracy improvements in various ways:
First, FLINT is flexible, so it can adjust to the data a user has available. Even if no data is available, public data sets can be used to produce results within weeks. FLINT can work with a wide range of models and emissions factors at Tier 1, 2 and 3. At any time, a data set or module can be replaced with an improved version without having to redesign the system.
Second, FLINT provides a framework that defines how the pieces of the system fit together. So each piece can be improved separately from the rest of the system as long as the FLINT-defined connections remain the same. This allows for improvement of several parts of the system simultaneously, without the risk that the improved pieces no longer fit together. It allows for faster improvement.
Third, FLINT’s framework also provides for a logical structure to coordinate between different teams (possibly from different departments) that need to provide FLINT inputs in the form of data or research. The framework divides the work into teams that can go off and focus on their improvement with minimal coordination between teams.
Fourth, FLINT facilitates a structured approach to continuous improvement. FLINT is run to produce results on a regular basis (e.g., annually). The uncertainty analysis module can be used to establish the accuracy of the results and to identify which improvement to the system has the smallest cost or effort with the biggest impact on the accuracy of the results. This approach allows for the prioritization of the possible improvements. Each team can focus on a priority improvement to be completed by the next time FLINT is run to produce results.
Ready to Inform Policy
FLINT supports the rising importance of developing mitigation and adaptation policies. The following key features support policy development. These features are already available or are under development.
Spatially explicit results identify where emissions and sinks have happened so these observations can be combined with rich contextual information available from geo-specific information.
Uncertainty calculation module establishes the accuracy of the results and prioritizes possible improvements.
Projections estimate emissions and sinks into the future. Using projections for different policies provides a consistent comparison between policy scenarios.
Full AFOLU (all land uses) allows policy makers to compare the effect of transitions between different land uses.
Biodiversity and other indicators can be calculated by FLINT or linked to FLINT results through spatial indicators. This creates consistency between different indicators and it allows for a wider range of considerations to be taken into account when developing policy.