The stock dynamics of harvested wood products (HWPs) are a relevant component of anthropogenic carbon cycles. Generally, HWP stock increases are treated as carbon removals from the atmosphere, while stock decreases are considered emissions. Among the different approaches suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for accounting HWPs in national greenhouse gas inventories, the production approach has been established as the common approach under the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. However, the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change decided that alternative approaches can also be used. The IPCC has published guidelines for estimating HWP carbon stocks and default parameters for the various approaches in the 2006 Guidelines, 2013 Guidance, and 2019 Refinement. Although there are significant differences among the default methods in the three IPCC guidelines, no studies have systematically quantified or compared the results from the different guidelines on a global scale. This study quantifies the HWP stock dynamics and corresponding carbon removals/emissions under each approach based on the default methods presented in each guideline for 235 individual countries/regions.
We identified relatively good consistency in carbon stocks/removals between the stock-change and the atmospheric flow approaches at a global level. Under both approaches, the methodological and parameter updates in the 2019 Refinement (e.g., considered HWPs, starting year for carbon stocks, and conversion factors) resulted in one-third reduction in carbon removals compared to the 2006 Guidelines. The production approach leads to a systematic underestimation of global carbon stocks and removals because it confines accounting to products derived from domestic harvests and uses the share of domestic feedstock for accounting. The 2013 Guidance and the 2019 Refinement reduce the estimated global carbon removals under the production approach by 15% and 45% (2018), respectively, compared to the 2006 Guidelines.
Gradual refinements in the IPCC default methods have a considerably higher impact on global estimates of HWP carbon stocks and removals than the differences in accounting approaches. The methodological improvements in the 2019 Refinement halve the global HWP carbon removals estimated in the former version, the 2006 Guidelines.