Carbon sequestration in plantation forests provides the main means by which New Zealand will meet its international climate change obligations in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008–2012). However, without active policy, forests are unlikely to contribute as much in subsequent commitment periods. This research paper provides the background for examining policy measures for encouraging carbon sequestration in plantation forests in New Zealand. Part I focuses on providing factual information and positive analysis of: key domestic and international regulations; information on New Zealand forests, the forestry industry and forest profitability; discussion of land-use decision making, including the central question of what influences conversion of farmland to forestry; and forest carbon ecology. Part II moves on to normative analysis of policy design. It discusses how including considerations of the value of carbon sequestration and storage changes optimal land-use behaviour, and outlines key issues that need to be addressed when developing a policy to encourage sequestration and storage in a pragmatic way. Finally, the paper identifies a number of key areas where we need more information before we can make well- informed choices about policy design. Future work will endeavour to identify and evaluate policies that would effectively encourage sequestration.