The U.S. forest carbon accounting framework: stocks and stock change, 1990-2016
As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United States annually prepares an inventory of carbon that has been emitted and sequestered among sectors (e.g., energy, agriculture, and forests). For many years, the United States developed an inventory of forest carbon by comparing contemporary forest inventories to inventories that were collected using different techniques and definitions from more than 20 years ago. Recognizing the need to improve the U.S. forest carbon inventory budget, the United States is adopting the Forest Carbon Accounting Framework, a new approach that removes this older inventory information from the accounting procedures and enables the delineation of forest carbon accumulation by forest growth, land use change, and natural disturbances such as fire. By using the new accounting approach with consistent inventory information, it was found that net land use change is a substantial contributor to the United States forest carbon sink, with the entire forest sink offsetting approximately 15 percent of annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The new framework adheres to accounting guidelines set forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change while charting a path forward for the incorporation of emerging research, data, and the needs of stakeholders (e.g., reporting at small scales and boreal forest carbon).