5.b Total forest product carbon pools and fluxes


This indicator provides information on the role that forest products play in storing, cycling and releasing carbon. Forest products delay the release of carbon into the atmosphere and are more sustainable than products with manufacturing processes that have significant carbon footprints.

Current state

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has agreed that parties will report the changes in the harvested wood product (HWP) pool. New Zealand’s Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) programme has begun to assess the suitability of data to support reporting using the alternative HWP methodologies. The 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines for greenhouse gas inventories describe four methodologies for including HWP reporting in national greenhouse gas inventories.

The HWP approaches outlined in the 2006 IPCC guidelines share a common approach of dividing the harvest wood into different product categories based on their lifetimes. All approaches include domestically grown and consumed wood products; they differ in terms of the treatment of imported and exported wood products.

To provide an indication of the carbon that New Zealand can confirm is going into HWP, a proxy measure based on domestically processed wood and the IPCC categories of wood product is provided.

The approach used here loosely approximates the production approach in the IPCC guidelines. Differences include the exclusion of exported roundwood and the disaggregation of the solid wood category into sawn timber and panels. The approach estimates only HWP production and does not provide stock or stock change in the HWP pool. New Zealand is currently developing its HWP reporting methods and full HWP reporting will be provided in the 2013 National Inventory Report (2015 submission). Once New Zealand’s HWP reporting methods are complete, it is expected that carbon stock in the HWP pool will increase from 1990 onwards.

Domestic processing of harvested wood into short-lived products (paper) has remained relatively static since 1990. In contrast, longer-lived products have increased substantially since 1990, although they have declined since 2005. It is believed that this more recent decline has been driven by relatively high production costs and the high New Zealand dollar, combined with the rationalisation of older, smaller mills.

The fate of New Zealand’s exported roundwood is more difficult to determine. While New Zealand’s roundwood export has significantly increased since 1990 (from about 17 percent to about 56 percent of the harvest volume), uncertainty exists about the ultimate products these logs are processed into. Work is under way to improve this information: as part of both product traceability work and also for climate change reporting. Therefore export roundwood is excluded from these HWP estimates.


Under the UNFCCC, in April 2015 New Zealand will report emissions and sinks from harvested wood products (HWP). The timing of this Montreal Process report means the data to project the HWP stock of wood sourced from New Zealand’s forests are still being developed. Inferred changes to the HWP pools in New Zealand, and from New Zealand harvested wood that is exported, are as follows:

  • between 2008 and 2014 harvested volume increased 38 percent, with the bulk of this increase in export logs
  • carbon in wood being converted into paper declined 13 percent
  • carbon in wood being converted into sawn wood declined 6 percent
  • carbon in wood being converted into panels declined 5 percent
  • production in 2014 remained 76 percent higher than in 1990.

Trend Status

Data Quality M

Supporting Material:

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