Forest carbon in North America: annual storage and emissions from British Columbia’s harvest, 1965–2065
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Government of British Columbia, PO Box 9515, Stn. Provincial Government, Victoria, BC V8W 9C2, Canada
Carbon Balance and Management 2012, 7:8 doi:10.1186/1750-0680-7-8Published: 24 July 2012
The default international accounting rules estimate the carbon emissions from forest products by assuming all harvest is immediately emitted to the atmosphere. This makes it difficult to assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) consequences of different forest management or manufacturing activities that maintain the storage of carbon. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) addresses this issue by allowing other accounting methods. The objective of this paper is to provide a new model for estimating annual stock changes of carbon in harvested wood products (HWP).
The model, British Columbia Harvested Wood Products version 1 (BC-HWPv1), estimates carbon stocks and fluxes for wood harvested in BC from 1965 to 2065, based on new parameters on local manufacturing, updated and new information for North America on consumption and disposal of wood and paper products, and updated parameters on methane management at landfills in the USA. Based on model results, reporting on emissions as they occur would substantially lower BC’s greenhouse gas inventory in 2010 from 48 Mt CO2 to 26 Mt CO2 because of the long-term forest carbon storage in-use and in the non-degradable material in landfills. In addition, if offset projects created under BC’s protocol reported 100 year cumulative emissions using the BC-HWPv1 the emissions would be lower by about 11%.
This research showed that the IPCC default methods overestimate the emissions North America wood products. Future IPCC GHG accounting methods could include a lower emissions factor (e.g. 0.52) multiplied by the annual harvest, rather than the current multiplier of 1.0. The simulations demonstrated that the primary opportunities for climate change mitigation are in shifting from burning mill waste to using the wood for longer-lived products.