Climate Change

Forests mitigate climate change by sequestering and storing carbon, and by producing woody biomass which can substitute fossil fuels as a source of energy.

The total amount of carbon stored in forest ecosystems and forest products, and fluxes or flows in carbon between both forests and forest products and the atmosphere, are all important aspects.

Carbon stored by forests

Both planted and indigenous forests contribute to mitigating climate change by sequestering and storing carbon:

  • 33.7 million tonnes (Mt) CO2-e (net): the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere by forests in 2013 - an increase of 3.5 Mt CO2-e since 1990
  • 3071 Mt: forest carbon stocks in 1990
  • 3298 Mt: forest carbon stocks in 2012
  • 2844 Mt: forest carbon stocks in indigenous forests in 2012
  • 454 Mt: forest carbon stocks in planted forests in 2012.

Carbon yield from multiple rotations of radiata pine

From 2013 onwards, harvesting areas will likely continue to increase. By around 2020, planted forest carbon stocks will decline in the short term as the large areas of forests planted (or replanted) in the 1980s and 1990s are gradually harvested.

Carbon and harvested wood products

Measures of carbon emissions and sinks from harvested wood products (HWP) are still being developed. Changes to the HWP pools in New Zealand, and from New Zealand harvested wood that is exported, will be used to provide information – for example, in the amount of carbon stored in products such as sawn wood and paper.

Carbon and woody biomass

Woody biomass used for energy contributes to mitigating climate change by acting as a substitute for fossil fuels.

  • Woody biomass remains a constant proportion of New Zealand’s primary energy but has increased in its energy supplied.
  • About 7 percent of the country’s primary energy comes from woody biomass.
  • This represents 57.83 petajoules, a 44 percent increase since 2008.
  • Emissions from fossil fuels have been reduced by about 4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, if woody biomass has displaced coal.

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