Indicator Climate

Greenhouse gas balance of land use

The Land Use sector records greenhouse gas fluxes that occur in connection with land use (such as forestry and agriculture, settlements or protection areas) or as the result of a change in land use, such as building houses on former cropland. Unlike the other sectors, which only produce emissions, the carbon stock of the soil and vegetation can increase and thus remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere (so-called carbon sinks).

Assessment of the state
medium medium
Assessment of the trend
impossible to evaluate impossible to evaluate
Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2021: -1.87508036386554 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2020: -1.42667820206155 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2019: -1.76642073785458 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2018: -1.08728242418344 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2017: -1.68570163503993 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2016: -1.98005584813802 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2015: -1.95442420598309 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2014: -0.161121384266346 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2013: -1.74311236605031 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2012: -2.51638121152356 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2011: -0.983406491682501 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2010: -2.80721765637543 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2009: -3.1590423714659 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2008: -2.05873684210898 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2007: -0.835512666744271 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2006: -1.92198446924175 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2005: -2.89092140854048 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2004: -2.63290187316311 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2003: -2.55193374312758 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2002: -2.58788668346625 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2001: -0.833223103750378 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 2000: 5.26460375164291 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1999: -2.407021662245 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1998: -2.81281634765049 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1997: -3.75975867920947 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1996: -5.45615389604805 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1995: -3.79525931930119 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1994: -2.98635787934516 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1993: -4.27515468633799 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1992: -4.00894911074386 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1991: -4.89147940818369 Greenhouse gas balance of land use and land-use changes 1990: -1.76379011942147
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
Harvested wood products 2021: -0.03923513 Unproductive land 2021: 0.138009012276 Settlements 2021: 0.179155961084667 Wetlands 2021: 0.128853278114667 Grassland 2021: 0.440714643549167 Cropland 2021: 0.226362938837 Forest land 2021: -2.95634803688204 Harvested wood products 2020: -0.02866239 Unproductive land 2020: 0.137608429153667 Settlements 2020: 0.180770087536 Wetlands 2020: 0.128889663334667 Grassland 2020: 0.578727391323633 Cropland 2020: 0.375576854250667 Forest land 2020: -2.80695032482518 Harvested wood products 2019: 0.07752898 Unproductive land 2019: 0.138726646043667 Settlements 2019: 0.179859668996 Wetlands 2019: 0.129104394828333 Grassland 2019: 0.7051376024232 Cropland 2019: 0.218826334419 Forest land 2019: -3.22293395133478 Harvested wood products 2018: -0.07526334 Unproductive land 2018: 0.136995603795333 Settlements 2018: 0.181003422355333 Wetlands 2018: 0.12872962312 Grassland 2018: 0.515021767927433 Cropland 2018: 0.112311911654 Forest land 2018: -2.09338805928554 Harvested wood products 2017: 0.00755306000000001 Unproductive land 2017: 0.135524000592667 Settlements 2017: 0.182126641879333 Wetlands 2017: 0.127505820674333 Grassland 2017: 0.745949661861233 Cropland 2017: 0.492898006152 Forest land 2017: -3.3845402563745 Harvested wood products 2016: -0.02849212 Unproductive land 2016: 0.129500725270333 Settlements 2016: 0.175754819802333 Wetlands 2016: 0.126805753020333 Grassland 2016: 0.6543609088558 Cropland 2016: 0.398345373368667 Forest land 2016: -3.44357022441549 Harvested wood products 2015: -0.07105348 Unproductive land 2015: 0.131738448194333 Settlements 2015: 0.180634984637333 Wetlands 2015: 0.127528422072333 Grassland 2015: 0.6889150619486 Cropland 2015: 0.524932775514 Forest land 2015: -3.54434280837969 Harvested wood products 2014: -0.08982759 Unproductive land 2014: 0.130799889791667 Settlements 2014: 0.183067120245333 Wetlands 2014: 0.126287430083667 Grassland 2014: 0.6155132732314 Cropland 2014: 0.830398813534667 Forest land 2014: -1.96455112795308 Harvested wood products 2013: 0.07722702 Unproductive land 2013: 0.130799125778667 Settlements 2013: 0.191563178140333 Wetlands 2013: 0.128938981759 Grassland 2013: 0.735703332784233 Cropland 2013: 0.457530273456667 Forest land 2013: -3.47202678060921 Harvested wood products 2012: -0.10650545 Unproductive land 2012: 0.129514178012667 Settlements 2012: 0.197780629245667 Wetlands 2012: 0.128853880292 Grassland 2012: 0.456451632079533 Cropland 2012: 0.201815562047333 Forest land 2012: -3.53136171706076 Harvested wood products 2011: -0.32491967 Unproductive land 2011: 0.128071697033 Settlements 2011: 0.198656542980667 Wetlands 2011: 0.128514529497 Grassland 2011: 0.594365474648267 Cropland 2011: 0.484703204449 Forest land 2011: -2.19981445852043 Harvested wood products 2010: -0.42408312 Unproductive land 2010: 0.126737062413 Settlements 2010: 0.200581159944 Wetlands 2010: 0.128248548321 Grassland 2010: 0.4371748211878 Cropland 2010: 0.246101362173667 Forest land 2010: -3.52893441271989 Harvested wood products 2009: -0.3875867 Unproductive land 2009: 0.124213361635333 Settlements 2009: 0.205331602143 Wetlands 2009: 0.127938213984333 Grassland 2009: 0.39297661824849 Cropland 2009: -0.00671892514933343 Forest land 2009: -3.62215587268773 Harvested wood products 2008: -0.40015842 Unproductive land 2008: 0.122428689476667 Settlements 2008: 0.208491888321333 Wetlands 2008: 0.127604387110667 Grassland 2008: 0.392460441863667 Cropland 2008: 0.251599862795333 Forest land 2008: -2.76810754630164 Harvested wood products 2007: -0.33551148 Unproductive land 2007: 0.129219230358667 Settlements 2007: 0.227653098133 Wetlands 2007: 0.127415981398667 Grassland 2007: 0.418575605336933 Cropland 2007: 0.254197932553333 Forest land 2007: -1.66397835129987 Harvested wood products 2006: -0.5104192 Unproductive land 2006: 0.124837338073667 Settlements 2006: 0.23487753967 Wetlands 2006: 0.125119673788667 Grassland 2006: 0.416050376000267 Cropland 2006: 0.0450208040439999 Forest land 2006: -2.36437549896835 Harvested wood products 2005: -0.68667283 Unproductive land 2005: 0.125222396023 Settlements 2005: 0.245252514335 Wetlands 2005: 0.126638668770333 Grassland 2005: 0.382272143370733 Cropland 2005: 0.0546458463613333 Forest land 2005: -3.14519400058088 Harvested wood products 2004: -0.54194923 Unproductive land 2004: 0.122793705464333 Settlements 2004: 0.240609344928333 Wetlands 2004: 0.124011767032 Grassland 2004: 0.361328429834333 Cropland 2004: 0.122824678984 Forest land 2004: -3.06946226507611 Harvested wood products 2003: -0.32531609 Unproductive land 2003: 0.121492467433333 Settlements 2003: 0.240528133465 Wetlands 2003: 0.123413666269 Grassland 2003: 0.482691060378933 Cropland 2003: 0.3249963947 Forest land 2003: -3.52673965512385 Harvested wood products 2002: -0.26330417 Unproductive land 2002: 0.120224794350667 Settlements 2002: 0.240824918525 Wetlands 2002: 0.122800129491 Grassland 2002: 0.513028027642467 Cropland 2002: 0.166132139292333 Forest land 2002: -3.49465126204771 Harvested wood products 2001: -0.39437506 Unproductive land 2001: 0.118973592397667 Settlements 2001: 0.240747305743333 Wetlands 2001: 0.122177672204333 Grassland 2001: 0.520082990751667 Cropland 2001: 0.607803859170667 Forest land 2001: -2.05574850413804 Harvested wood products 2000: -0.70148002 Unproductive land 2000: 0.117782736091667 Settlements 2000: 0.2419809745 Wetlands 2000: 0.121657375958 Grassland 2000: 0.5565839060838 Cropland 2000: 0.482594193695667 Forest land 2000: 4.43831293933878 Harvested wood products 1999: -0.34773544 Unproductive land 1999: 0.116807952927667 Settlements 1999: 0.244290355456667 Wetlands 1999: 0.121424778117 Grassland 1999: 0.495799818090067 Cropland 1999: 0.547394689236 Forest land 1999: -3.5922341539824 Harvested wood products 1998: -0.27362939 Unproductive land 1998: 0.115461746834333 Settlements 1998: 0.244729653410333 Wetlands 1998: 0.120682811619 Grassland 1998: 0.335820749038933 Cropland 1998: 0.254178231170667 Forest land 1998: -3.61734703227376 Harvested wood products 1997: -0.22068316 Unproductive land 1997: 0.108501940617 Settlements 1997: 0.242840702670333 Wetlands 1997: 0.119350642914 Grassland 1997: 0.311568024767933 Cropland 1997: 0.328568983502333 Forest land 1997: -4.65724151241107 Harvested wood products 1996: -0.26143445 Unproductive land 1996: 0.108123462438333 Settlements 1996: 0.241007901869667 Wetlands 1996: 0.116727582383667 Grassland 1996: 0.366032456547867 Cropland 1996: 0.372826093773 Forest land 1996: -6.40682115110058 Harvested wood products 1995: -0.44190497 Unproductive land 1995: 0.107025713588667 Settlements 1995: 0.243217818220333 Wetlands 1995: 0.1158936116921 Grassland 1995: 0.385839038670267 Cropland 1995: 0.514429518753 Forest land 1995: -4.72720783600555 Harvested wood products 1994: -0.32003977 Unproductive land 1994: 0.104751201977 Settlements 1994: 0.227595544337333 Wetlands 1994: 0.111395493015 Grassland 1994: 0.343367967128733 Cropland 1994: 0.518871874273233 Forest land 1994: -3.97968877141146 Harvested wood products 1993: -0.43746263 Unproductive land 1993: 0.094036038611 Settlements 1993: 0.230829271020333 Wetlands 1993: 0.105830721656667 Grassland 1993: 0.287837392463467 Cropland 1993: 0.586103547364733 Forest land 1993: -5.14967859257419 Harvested wood products 1992: -0.51613599 Unproductive land 1992: 0.0937676683596667 Settlements 1992: 0.232184392428 Wetlands 1992: 0.104232084503 Grassland 1992: 0.239272320282533 Cropland 1992: 0.596679871123 Forest land 1992: -4.76630181009506 Harvested wood products 1991: -0.71906046 Unproductive land 1991: 0.093637021184 Settlements 1991: 0.232418124918667 Wetlands 1991: 0.104208529166667 Grassland 1991: 0.166203211283667 Cropland 1991: 0.3861789047439 Forest land 1991: -5.16243284400059 Harvested wood products 1990: -1.12720587 Unproductive land 1990: 0.0935985623733333 Settlements 1990: 0.229200949048 Wetlands 1990: 0.103436619120333 Grassland 1990: 0.117779240167467 Cropland 1990: 0.435283401600667 Forest land 1990: -1.62326188657627
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

Forest dominates the greenhouse gas balance of Switzerland’s land use. Most years, forest management has resulted in a distinct increase in the total carbon reservoir in trees, dead wood, litter and forest soils (“forest sink”). Salvage logging following severe storms (Vivian in February 1990, Lothar in December 1999) and the rise in volumes harvested in some years (e.g. 2006, 2007, 2014) are clearly recognisable. In terms of climate policy, sustainable forest management can be achieved by using the wood grown in a cascade, firstly for long-lasting harvested wood products and subsequently for energy purposes. In almost all the years since 1990, more wood has been incorporated into new products (such as construction timber or furniture) than has been released (as CO2) in the disposal and/or combustion of end-of-life wood products. The size of the annual sink from harvested wood products has fallen in the past few years.

The agricultural use of cropland and grassland affects the carbon stock of the soil. For example, ploughing promotes the decomposition of humus, whereas spreading farmyard manure or leaving harvest residues on the fields increases their carbon stock. As well as the farming method, the main factors influencing the annual fluctuations are the crops grown and the climatic conditions. The case of drained former peatlands is a special one. When subjected to intense agricultural use, these fertile soils release large amounts of the greenhouse gases CO2 and N2O.

Wetlands now only account for a small part of the land area. As almost all of the remaining peatlands have been impaired by the consequences of previous use (particularly drainage), the build-up of peat has stopped, and many of the former sinks are now sources of greenhouse gases.

The development of new settlements has resulted in comparatively low emissions since 1990. Emissions are mainly produced if trees have to be felled during construction work.

Unproductive land such as rocks, scree and glacier forelands have very little vegetation and only poorly developed soil or none at all. These areas therefore play an insignificant role in the greenhouse gas balance.

With the exception of 2000, Switzerland’s land use resulted in more CO2 equivalents being absorbed from the atmosphere by the soil and vegetation than were emitted. Switzerland thus reduced its annual net emissions of greenhouse gases.  Greenhouse gases continue to be released due mainly to the non-sustainable use of primary peaty soils and the use of land for settlement and traffic areas. For this reason, the state is not unreservedly satisfactory. The changes are impossible to evaluate since many factors can influence the total balance (forest and agricultural policies, spatial planning, construction activity, storms).

International comparison

The greenhouse gas balance of land use can be compared to the data from other countries, given that it is calculated in accordance with the IPCC guidelines.

Method

The data are taken from the inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland (Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry Sector), which is drawn up annually by the FOEN in accordance with the guidelines of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The methods are consistent with the guidelines of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The greenhouse gas fluxes are surveyed for six categories of land use: forest, cropland, grassland, wetlands, settlements and unproductive land (other land). The carbon stock of harvested wood products made from Swiss wood is also recorded. CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas by far in the Land Use sector. Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from fires, humus depletion, reservoirs and drained peatlands make a minor contribution to the emissions. In addition to the categories listed here, total emissions include low levels of N2O which, under international guidelines, are not allocated to any of these categories. The emissions of CH4 and N2O are converted to CO2 equivalents and added to the CO2 emissions.

 
Last updated on: 11.04.2023

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