Carbon sequestration accounting principles

Forest carbon accounting can be divided into three forms. Stock accounting assesses the magnitude of carbon stored in forest ecosystems at a single point in time. Emissions accounting assesses the net greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere resulting from forests. Emission reductions accounting assesses the decrease in emissions from project or policy activities, often so that they can be traded.

Forest carbon accounting identifies the carbon-density of areas, providing information for low-carbon-impact land use planning. It prepares territories for accounting and reporting of emissions from the forestry sector. It allows comparison of the climate change impact of the forestry sector relative to other sectors, as well as allowing comparison between territories. Finally, it enables trade of project emission reductions on carbon markets and for emission reductions to be included in policy targets.

The practice of forest carbon accounting requires clear identification of the accounting boundary in both space and time. Stratifying the forest into areas with similar carbon characteristics further improves the accuracy of carbon accounting. Data for accounting can be gathered from a variety of sources, including existing secondary data, remotely sensed data and primary data through field surveys. The amount of data from each source depends on the quality of the source as well as the trade-offs that must be made between accounting accuracy and costs of resources and time.

Forest carbon accounting guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has become the primary source of information for methods, accounting equations and parameters. However, IPCC guidance is vast and often difficult to navigate. In response, a number of tools for forest carbon accounting have emerged. These vary in terms of geographical coverage, forestry activities and the carbon pools accounted for, as well as the level of data input required. In light of such diversity, practitioners require an understanding of the forest carbon accounting process, irrespective of whether these tools are utilised.