Reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries is of central importance in efforts to combat climate change. Key scientific challenges must be addressed to prevent any policy roadblocks. Foremost among the challenges is quantifying nations' carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which requires information on forest clearing and carbon storage. Here we review a range of methods available to estimate national-level forest carbon stocks in developing countries. While there are no practical methods to directly measure all forest carbon stocks across a country, both ground-based and remote-sensing measurements of forest attributes can be converted into estimates of national carbon stocks using allometric relationships. Here we synthesize, map and update prominent forest biomass carbon databases to create the first complete set of national-level forest carbon stock estimates. These forest carbon estimates expand on the default values recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidelines and provide a range of globally consistent estimates.