04 Apr 2022
04 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Carbon fluxes from land 2000–2020: bringing clarity on countries’ reporting

Giacomo Grassi1, Giulia Conchedda2, Sandro Federici3, Raul Abad Viñas1, Anu Korosuo1, Joana Melo4, Simone Rossi5, Marieke Sandker6, Zoltan Somogyi7, and Francesco N. Tubiello2 Giacomo Grassi et al.
  • 1Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission, Ispra, 21027, Italy
  • 2Statistics Division, FAO, Rome, 00153, Italy
  • 3Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, IGES, Hayama, 240-0112, Japan
  • 4School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
  • 5Joint Research Centre (JRC) Consultant, ARCADIA SIT s.r.l., Vigevano (PV), 27029, Italy
  • 6Forestry Division, FAO, Rome, 00153, Italy
  • 7University of Sopron, Forest Research Institute, Sopron, H-9400, Hungary

Abstract. Despite an increasing attention on the role of land in meeting countries’ climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, the range of estimates of carbon fluxes from Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) in available databases is very large. A good understanding of the LULUCF data reported by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – and of the differences with other datasets based on country reported data – is crucial to increase confidence in land-based climate change mitigation efforts.

Here we present a new data compilation of LULUCF fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) on managed land, aiming at providing a consolidated view on the subject. Our database builds on a detailed analysis of data from National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (NGHGIs) communicated via a range of country reports to the UNFCCC, which report anthropogenic emissions and removals based on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) methodology. Specifically, for Annex I countries, data are sourced from annual GHG inventories. For non-Annex I countries, we compiled the most recent and complete information from different sources, including National Communications, Biennial Update Reports, submissions to the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) framework and Nationally Determined Contributions. The data are disaggregated into fluxes from forest land, deforestation, organic soils and other sources (including non-forest land uses). The CO2 flux database is complemented by information on managed and unmanaged forest area as available in NGHGIs. To ensure completeness of time series, we filled the gaps without altering the levels and trends of the country reported data. Expert judgement was applied in a few cases when data inconsistencies existed.

Results indicate a mean net global sink of -1.6 Gt CO2/yr over the period 2000–2020, largely determined by a sink on forest land (-6.4 Gt CO2/yr), followed by source from deforestation (+4.4 Gt CO2/yr) and minor fluxes from organic soils (+0.9 Gt CO2/yr) and other land uses (-0.6 Gt CO2/yr).

Furthermore, we compare our NGHGI database with two other sets of country-based data: those included in the UNFCCC GHG data interface, and those based on forest resources data reported by countries to FAO and used as inputs into estimates of GHG emissions in FAOSTAT. The first dataset, once gap-filled as in our study, results in a net global LULUCF sink of -5.4 Gt CO2/yr. The difference with the NGHGI database is in this case mostly explained by more updated and comprehensive data in our compilation for non-Annex I countries. The FAOSTAT GHG dataset instead estimates a net global LULUCF source of +1.1 Gt CO2/yr. In this case, most of the difference to our results is due to a much greater forest sink for non-Annex I countries in the NGHGI database than in FAOSTAT. The difference between these datasets can be mostly explained by a more complete coverage in the NGHGI database, including for non-biomass carbon pools and non-forest land uses, and by different underlying data on forest land. The latter reflects the different scopes of the country reporting to FAO, which focuses on area and biomass, and to UNFCCC, which explicitly focuses on carbon fluxes. Bearing in mind the respective strengths and weaknesses, both our NGHGI database and FAO offer a fundamental, yet incomplete, source of information on carbon-related variables for the scientific and policy communities, including under the Global Stocktake.

Overall, while the quality and quantity of the LULUCF data submitted by countries to the UNFCCC significantly improved in recent years, important gaps still remain. Most developing countries still do not explicitly separate managed vs. unmanaged forest land, a few report implausibly high forest sinks, and several report incomplete estimates. With these limits in mind, the NGHGI database presented here represents the most up-to-date and complete compilation of LULUCF data based on country submissions to UNFCCC.

Data from this study are openly available via the Zenodo portal (Grassi et al. 2022), at

Giacomo Grassi et al.

Status: open (until 02 Jun 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC2: 'Comment on essd-2022-104', Clemens Schwingshackl, 20 Apr 2022 reply
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2022-104', Richard Houghton, 26 Apr 2022 reply
  • CC3: 'Comment on essd-2022-104', William F. Lamb, 16 May 2022 reply

Giacomo Grassi et al.

Data sets

LULUCF data based on National GHG inventories (NGHGI DB) Grassi Giacomo, Federici Sandro, Abad-Vinas Raul, Korosuo Anu, & Rossi Simone

Giacomo Grassi et al.


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Short summary
Despite an increasing attention on the role of land-use CO2 fluxes in climate change mitigation, there are large differences in available databases. Here we present the most updated and complete compilation of land-use CO2 data based on country submissions to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and explain differences with other dataset. Our dataset brings clarity of land use CO2 fluxes and helps tracking country progress under the Paris Agreement.