Climate Change

Forests can help us shift to low-carbon economies

Forests increase removal of carbon from the atmosphere while sustainable forest management and forest products contribute to enhanced livelihoods and a lower carbon footprint

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 21 July 2016

We all know that forests play a vital role when it comes to tackling climate change by acting as carbon sinks. But little is known that their contribution can be scaled up even after trees have been logged.

A new report, Forestry for a low-carbon future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies, shows how to catalyse a “virtuous cycle” that exploits the life cycle of wood products to enhance and multiply the well-known ability of forests to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.

“Forests are at the heart of the transition to low-carbon economies…,” said René Castro-Salazar, Food and Agriculture Organization’s assistant director-general for forestry.”

Forests lock carbon dioxide in leaves, branches and soils while deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 12 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests increase removal of carbon from the atmosphere while sustainable forest management and forest products contribute to enhanced livelihoods and a lower carbon footprint, the report adds.

Using trees to shrink carbon footprints

Thanks to technological advances and cleaner, greener methods of processing, the industrial use of wood can contribute to shrinking of carbon footprints compared to the use of fossil fuels, the report adds.

Wood is the main solid biofuel, accounting for 69 per cent of the world’s renewable energy supply. It is the main household fuel for around 2.4 billion people around the world. More efficient cook stoves can lower the almost two billion tonnes of annual global carbon dioxide emissions.

Where forests are sustainably managed and relatively abundant, woody biomass—usually in the form of pellets, often made from recycled or waste products—can serve as large-scale energy source.

When wood is transformed into furniture, floors, doorways or beams, it does not instantly oxidise, but continues to store carbon. The FAO calculates that carbon storage by wood products in fact offsets nearly all the emissions related to their manufacture.

The net emission footprint of a wooden desk is lower than that of modern office furniture made of steel and plastic derivatives with fewer end-of-life disposal options.

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