EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Reconciling differences in CO2 emissions and removals from LULUCF by separating natural and land-use CO2 fluxes at the country level

Clemens Schwingshackl1, Wolfgang A. Obermeier1, Selma Bultan1, Giacomo Grassi2, Josep G. Canadell3, Pierre Friedlingstein4,5, Thomas Gasser6, Richard A. Houghton7, Werner A. Kurz8, Stephen Sitch9, and Julia Pongratz1,10
Clemens Schwingshackl et al.
  • 1LMU Munich, Munich, Germany (
  • 2Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Ispra, Italy
  • 3Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Environment, Canberra, Australia
  • 4College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  • 5Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique/Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure/Université PSL, Sorbonne Université, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France
  • 6International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria
  • 7Woodwell Climate Research Center, Falmouth, MA, USA
  • 8Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Victoria, BC, Canada
  • 9Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  • 10Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, German

Anthropogenic and natural CO2 fluxes on land constitute substantial CO2 emissions and removals but are usually not well distinguished in national greenhouse gas inventories (NGHGIs) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Instead, countries frequently include natural and indirect human-induced CO2 fluxes on managed land in their estimates of CO2 fluxes from land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF), mostly due to methodological constraints. Comparisons of anthropogenic LULUCF flux estimates from global models and from NGHGI reports thus reveal a substantial gap. Globally, this gap could be successfully reconciled by considering the different definitions used by global models and by NGHGI reports. Recent improvements in LULUCF flux modelling enable such a reconciliation now also at the country-level.

We separate natural and land-use-related CO2 fluxes from NGHGI reports in eight countries using global models to assess and improve the attribution of land CO2 fluxes to direct anthropogenic activities. In most investigated countries, the gap between model-based and report-based CO2 flux estimates is reduced (by up to 70%) if natural and indirect human-induced CO2 fluxes on managed land are considered. This confirms that the methodological discrepancies between NGHGI reports and global model estimates of LULUCF emissions are primarily due to differing estimation and reporting definitions, which need to be considered when accounting for country contributions to global climate mitigation targets. Further examinations show that remaining differences are linked to country-specific discrepancies between model-based and report-based estimates, such as incomplete reporting by countries, uncertainties in historical land-use dynamics, and model limitations. Moreover, most countries report the areas considered as managed without explicit information on their location, which prevents a precise spatial identification necessary for a detailed comparison of natural fluxes in managed forests with model-based estimates.

Reconciling estimates of LULUCF fluxes in individual countries by separating natural and land-use-related CO2 fluxes at national scales provides an important step toward a transparent assessment of LULUCF fluxes from NGHGI reports and supports a fair burden sharing of climate mitigation across countries.

How to cite: Schwingshackl, C., Obermeier, W. A., Bultan, S., Grassi, G., Canadell, J. G., Friedlingstein, P., Gasser, T., Houghton, R. A., Kurz, W. A., Sitch, S., and Pongratz, J.: Reconciling differences in CO2 emissions and removals from LULUCF by separating natural and land-use CO2 fluxes at the country level, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-7116,, 2023.