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When you deforest pre-1990 forest land you must submit an emissions return, unless you have an exemption or an approved application to offset your emissions from deforesting. You need to submit an emissions return between 1 January and 31 March of the year after you deforest.
To complete your emissions return you need to know how much carbon was in your forest when it was deforested. You'll need to pay New Zealand Units (NZUs or units) for this amount of carbon. This is known as "surrendering" units. There is a specific way you must calculate this amount. We explain it on this web page.
There are 2 steps you need to have completed before you can calculate your carbon.
Step 1: Identify the forest type, region, and age
You need to know certain things about your forest land, such as the forest type and age of the trees. There are specific rules for how to work these out in the ETS.
Step 2: Group similar areas of forest together into sub-areas
If your forest has trees of more than 1 forest type or age, or across multiple regions (if it's radiata pine), you also need to do some work to separate your forest land into "sub-areas". These are areas of forest with the same characteristics. You'll do your carbon calculations for each of these sub-areas separately.
When you do your carbon calculations, you need to refer to "carbon tables". These are tables that tell you how much carbon is in your forest land per hectare.
To calculate the carbon in pre-1990 forest land, you need to use the carbon tables provided in the regulations. They're based on average growth rates across New Zealand.
There are 2 tables:
- a table for radiata pine forest, split up by region
- a table with columns for the other types of forest.
If the trees are older than the last age on the carbon tables for that forest type, use the value for the last age.
To calculate the total carbon stock of your forest land:
- For each sub-area, find the value for the forest carbon stock from the carbon tables.
- Multiply this value by the total area in hectares (rounded to 1 decimal place) of the sub-area. This gives you the total carbon stock for the sub-area.
- Add together the carbon stock from each sub-area.
- Round the total to the nearest whole number (0.5 and above is rounded up).
The result is the total amount of carbon emissions you need to report on your emissions return.
Calculating carbon stock in a deforested area of pre-1990 forest land
A pre-1990 forest owner deforests 88.34 hectares of 34-year-old Douglas-fir during a year. To calculate the carbon in the forest when it was cleared:
- Use table 2 from the pre-1990 carbon tables.
- Go to the column for Douglas-fir.
- Read off the value at the age 34 years.
Area = 88.3 hectares (rounded to 1 decimal place)
Carbon stock value = 629 tonnes CO2 per hectare (from the table at age 34)
The total carbon stock = 88.3 x 629 = 55,540.7 tonnes CO2
Rounded to whole tonnes = 55,541 tonnes CO2.
There was 55,541 tonnes of CO2 in the forest when it was cleared.
If you deforest pre-1990 forest land while the trees on the land are 8 years old or younger, an extra rule applies to how you calculate the emissions. This is because previous forest must have been cleared before the young trees could regenerate or be planted, for it to be pre-1990 forest land. The previous forest may have stored a much larger amount of carbon.
If the trees cleared are 8 years old or younger, you need to calculate the amount of carbon based on trees that were on the land previously. For any trees cleared in the previous 9 years (excluding any time when the land was temporarily unstocked), you must work out:
- the main (predominant) species, and
- of that species, the age of the oldest trees when they were cleared.
You must use this species and age when you calculate the emissions from deforesting the land. This means you're reporting on and paying (surrendering) units for the older trees previously on the land instead of the new growth.
If only part of the land you deforest has trees that are 8 years old or younger, this rule only applies to that area. Emissions from the rest of the forest land are calculated normally.