Indicator Climate

Greenhouse gas balance of forests and the timber industry

When trees grow, they store carbon in their biomass. In this way, they are able to absorb large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. Conversely, when trees die or are harvested, their decomposition or burning releases the carbon stored in their biomass. As a result, sustainable forest management that also allows for sustainable carbon storage can help protect the climate. The use of durable wood products (e.g. construction timber, furniture) is another (temporary) method of storing carbon. Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from forest fires, humus loss after reforestation and drained organic soils also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but to a much lesser extent.

Assessment of the state
good good
Assessment of the trend
impossible to evaluate impossible to evaluate
Reference value 2020: -1.8 Reference value 2019: -1.8 Reference value 2018: -1.8 Reference value 2017: -1.8 Reference value 2016: -1.8 Reference value 2015: -1.8 Reference value 2014: -1.8 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2020: -0.0511448249033274 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2020: -2.278857325 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2020: 0.180249729299 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2019: 0.0571397499933187 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2019: -2.71605547182367 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2019: 0.1778888159 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2018: -0.0958126031133336 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2018: -1.58312649995467 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2018: 0.179138021801667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2017: -0.0145411451166584 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2017: -2.90157434981566 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2017: 0.175672948257 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2016: -0.0519311980733482 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2016: -2.965812881883 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2016: 0.168079905374667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2015: -0.0953341220333291 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2015: -3.05194890711167 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2015: 0.167749542968667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2014: -0.112179396303327 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2014: -1.48053722184967 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2014: 0.169767133266667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2013: 0.0582899050066726 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2013: -3.02295049710833 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2013: 0.167992254280667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2012: -0.132574229186666 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2012: -3.07667612650533 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2012: 0.165698066934667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2011: -0.353539882263332 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2011: -1.72956457782433 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2011: 0.163729696060667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2010: -0.455333798553333 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2010: -3.10917350064333 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2010: 0.160688751236933 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2009: -0.420323182986677 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2009: -3.19287983717967 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2009: 0.155825966850333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2008: -0.430266366860001 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2008: -2.33255044835033 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2008: 0.152204304079333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2007: -0.363115385453344 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2007: -1.22173209738767 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2007: 0.154419644968 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2006: -0.541324030829992 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2006: -1.94157228008633 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2006: 0.145782676455667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2005: -0.727121660943327 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2005: -2.70856353248033 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2005: 0.142351609964 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2004: -0.58090719001334 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2004: -2.614260786777 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2004: 0.140109538492667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2003: -0.358412098623335 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2003: -3.08039768808767 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2003: 0.13746513 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2002: -0.300349359273337 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2002: -3.014501593027 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2002: 0.13479029601 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2001: -0.42650404389999 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2001: -1.58425996331233 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2001: 0.132179074432 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 2000: -0.72255477858666 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 2000: 4.94535997587167 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2000: 0.129768386655 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1999: -0.385857322986663 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1999: -3.11787002918666 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1999: 0.128310575207667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1998: -0.308338473409998 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1998: -3.15451616017334 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1998: 0.125302902991667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1997: -0.25625705992333 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1997: -4.18406392127933 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1997: 0.114810138486333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1996: -0.301729435846668 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1996: -5.962081523147 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1996: 0.109382980927333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1995: -0.486963975483334 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1995: -4.10079985426233 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1995: 0.106762942379667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1994: -0.358359843526666 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1994: -3.32843802664 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1994: 0.096704263502 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1993: -0.476894682293334 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1993: -4.517501819068 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1993: 0.0851796943146667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1992: -0.556382073573337 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1992: -4.129592519464 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1992: 0.083022871166 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1991: -0.763930641650004 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1991: -4.56429140396067 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1991: 0.0836630172603333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products (= KP Art. 3.4) 1990: -1.16876397308001 Carbon balance associated with forest management (= KP Art. 3.4) 1990: -1.15857803860267 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1990: 0.0836364073973333
A positive balance equates to a net emission of greenhouse gases (mainly CO2) in the year in question, while a negative balance means that more CO2 equivalents were removed from the atmosphere than were emitted.

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: Federal Office for the Environment
Comment

By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Switzerland agreed to record variations in forest carbon stocks generated by afforestation and deforestation (Art. 3.3) as well as forest management and wood use (Art. 3.4).

The areas of afforestation and deforestation are relatively small in comparison with the total forest area. Because growth in biomass through afforestation occurs slowly, whereas with deforestation, all timber is removed at once, the emissions generated by deforestation are significantly higher than sequestration as a result of afforestation. Consequently, under the terms of Article 3.3 there is a carbon source every year.

The greenhouse gas balance of forests is made up of CO2 absorption as a result of tree growth, changes in the CO2 stored in mulch, soil and deadwood, minus the losses resulting from forest management (harvesting) and natural outflows. Changes in carbon stocks in domestic wood products (harvested wood products, HWP) also have to be recorded. Except in years with severe storms, with increased losses of living biomass in the forest due to forced usage, and greater tree mortality in subsequent years (e.g. ‘Vivian’ in February 1990 and ‘Lothar’ in December 1999), forest management (Art. 3.4) results in a carbon sink in living and dead biomass. This forest sink is nonetheless limited, as the rotation periods (using trees at a later stage) cannot be extended at will if the forest is to be managed sustainably. Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from forest fires, reforested mineral-rich soils and drained organic soils in forests also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions to a small extent.  

Article 3.4 also requires that carbon storage in harvested wood products be taken into consideration. Almost every year since 1990, more wood has been used in new products (e.g. construction timber or furniture) than has been released (as CO2) in the disposal and/or combustion of end-of-life wood products. Thus, an increasingly large amount of carbon has been temporarily stored in Swiss wood products over the last three decades. However, this annual increase has decreased significantly in recent years. In 2013 and 2019, wood products represented a net source of CO2, as more wood products were taken out of circulation than were produced.

For accounting under the Kyoto Protocol, this greenhouse gas balance from forest management and wood products is compared with a reference value at the end of the commitment period. In 2020, the accountable carbon sink (CO2 storage by Swiss forests and Swiss harvested wood products) amounts to 0.3 million tonnes of CO2. Over the entire second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol 2013-2020, the accountable carbon sink amounts to 4.5 million tonnes of CO2.

If more wood is harvested in the coming years, as foreseen by the Swiss Forest Policy, this would generally lower the forest’s carbon sink capacity in the future. However, a well-conceived cascade strategy in which harvested wood is first used to produce durable wood projects and then as a source of energy could absorb this effect and enable stored carbon to continue to protect the climate. Since large storm events and pest infestations have a significant impact on the quantity of carbon stored, the trend is difficult to evaluate.

International comparison

Comparability with the other Parties to the Kyoto Protocol pertains.

Method

The greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon balance of forest management including wood products are published in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol. The methods used are consistent with IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) guidelines.

To establish changes in carbon stocks – expressed as CO2-equivalents – the levels of carbon released by deforestation, and those absorbed by afforestation, are taken into account in addition to the carbon balance of forest management, including harvested wood products. For the Kyoto Protocol calculation at the end of the commitment period, forest management is compared with a reference value, the Forest Management Reference Level.

 
Last updated on: 11.04.2022

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