International trade in wood products: its role in the land use change and forestry carbon cycle

G.J. Nabuurs, R. Sikkema

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Accounting harvested wood products and their trade as an integral part of thecarbon cycle of a managed forest is achallenging task. Nevertheless, an appropriate way is especially needed nowthat harvested wood products may be includedin Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. The adoption of a method for accountingfor these flows in the IPCC guidelines mayhave implications for the trade of wood products and thus on global forestmanagement.Four methods of accounting for wood products in an international perspective areanalyzed in the present study. The aimis to obtain insight in the technical and policy implications of the proposedmethods. These methods include the presentdefault IPCC method and three alternatives: flow consumption, flow production,and stock change. All fourmethodologies are applied to the 1990 data of Gabon, Sweden, and TheNetherlands.The impact of accounting for wood products using alternative methods has –in some cases – a large impact on the carbonbalance of the Land Use Change and Forestry (LUCF) sector. In the case of TheNetherlands, it was found that theLUCF carbon balance could be `converted' from a sink into a source dependingon the method chosen. However,the LUCF sector is very small compared to the total national carbon balancein The Netherlands. In Sweden, a countrywhere the forest sector plays an important role, the alternative wood productmethods influence the total nationalcarbon balance by 34%. In Gabon, a country with conversion forestry,the impact of alternative wood productmethods hardly influences the LUCF carbon balance because the emissions fromdeforestation are very large.The accounting method may have a large impact on the way countries regardtheir trade in wood products. It may bepossible for countries to buy a sink through the wood products trade, byimporting products faster than they decomposedomestically. In the case of Gabon with its conversion forestry (the changefrom forest into other types of land use, like agriculture,it was foundthat under the flow consumption method,this country can partly export the carbon sources resulting fromnonsustainable forest management. Nor is this lattermethod consistent with the energy chapter of the IPCC guidelines. The stockchange method seems to be a suitablemethod, combining precise accounting and simplicity. This method is also anincentive for the use of wood in long-lifeproducts and bioenergy, and for sustainable forest management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-395
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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