The Environment Ministry of New Zealand will spend more than $1 million building an electronic carbon accounting system to meet the country’s obligations to the Kyoto protocol. The protocol, the first stage of which comes into effect in 2008, requires New Zealand to track land use changes and show how this alters its “carbon sinks”. New Zealand already has a system to track carbon emissions, but this must be combined with changes in the amount of carbon locked in trees – carbon sinks – which changes as forests grow and are harvested. The department has put out a tender for the creation of a central database, the hosting of information technology infrastructure and the development of technical specifications for the carbon accounting system.
The tender doesn’t cover the collection of the data itself, which will be provided by a mix of “plot data” – estimates of the number of trees in an area – and geospatial data from satellite and aerial photos. Tenders for the collection of this information are also out now.
Project manager Peter Stephens says that while other nations are also building carbon accounting systems, the data collection methods vary and the New Zealand system will be unique to fit the country’s “national circumstances”. The resulting database will be “fairly hi-tech”, producing reports for international observers from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s envisaged that the accounting system will be used by national and local governments agencies for mapping and it is likely it will be expanded to monitor biodiversity and the overall health of forests.