Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS)

The Taranaki region in North Island, New Zealand, has a variety of land uses.  Farming on grassland releases carbon dioxide and methane, but this is offset by planted 'Kyoto' forest (established after 1989).

The Taranaki region in North Island, New Zealand,
has a variety of land uses - releasing greenhouse
gases (pastoral farming) and fixing CO2 (forest).

What is it?

The Land Use and Carbon Analysis System is helping New Zealand meet its international reporting requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. It tracks and quantifies changes in New Zealand land use, particularly since 1990.

LUCAS is a cross-government programme led by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). Several other government departments including Treasury and the Department of Conservation (DOC) provide input.

This page provides an overview of the range of activities of LUCAS and the benefits it aims to deliver.

What does LUCAS do?

Established in 2005, the team's first priority has been to develop methodologies appropriate for New Zealand, in accord with its international reporting requirements.

This has meant developing a unique approach to analysing the various land uses in New Zealand that have undergone major changes.

A brochure on the LUCAS story, “Measuring carbon removals and emissions from land-use change and forestry”, outlines the overall approach of the LUCAS programme.  It highlights how inventory data and geospatial technologies are used by the programme to estimate our greenhouse gas emissions and removals attributable to the Land use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector in New Zealand.

The work LUCAS does is reflected in its six workstreams. These are:

  1. database and reporting system
  2. method development
  3. land use mapping
  4. soils
  5. natural forests
  6. planted forests.

The data and information required for international greenhouse gas reporting are stored in the LUCAS data management system.  It comprises a geospatial system, a data warehouse and a calculation application.  These components are continually being populated with new and improved data, from which time series data and land use maps can be generated. 

Key years for which land-use data are mapped are:

  • 1990
  • 2008
  • 2012.

These years represent the IPCC base year for greenhouse gas emissions; and the beginning and the end, respectively, of the First Commitment Period (CP1) under the Kyoto Protocol.

What benefits does LUCAS bring?

Contributions by the LUCAS project provide many benefits. Eventually, its results will allow New Zealand to claim global credits for our 'carbon sinks' under the international trading rules to which New Zealand is committed.

It does so by providing evidence that the country as a whole fixes more carbon dioxide than the total amount of greenhouse gas it produces (mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide). LUCAS provides the objective, verifiable data for New Zealand's contribution to fighting climate change.

Where do I find out more?

Read about key concepts of carbon pools as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Other terms shown in italics in the text are linked to the updated glossary on the New Zealand Climate Change Solutions website.

The latest published data from all participating countries, including New Zealand, can be retrieved in tabular and graphic form from the UNFCCC website.

Regular updates on the project are presented in the 'Looking at LUCAS' newsletters and other relevant links and references.

Contact details

Contact the LUCAS programme team at or write to:

Ministry for the Environment
PO Box 10362
Wellington 6143, New Zealand

Last updated: 6 April 2011