Wood: the ideal partner in Climate and Energy Effi ciency policy Aug02

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Wood: the ideal partner in Climate and Energy Effi ciency policy

The last 2 years have become very productive for policy recognising the role of wood in combating climate change. Indeed, the European Parliament1, the Economic and Social Committee2 and also the United Nations3 have adopted, or are in a very advanced stage to do so, a number of initiatives that will allow the forestry and woodworking industries to continue contributing to sustainability and economic growth.Thanks in particular to the new carbon accounting rules included in the LULUCF regulation, wood and wood products have been acknowledged as long-term carbon storage contributors, finally ending the “Kyoto misunderstanding” by which carbon from forestry was considered released once a tree was cut. This change signals that by using more wood and wood products, or replacing other more energy-intensive materials with wood, citizens are preventing the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gas emissions for many more years. One cubic metre of wood stores 0.9 tonnes of CO2 for as long as that wood – be it in the forest or as furniture, paper or construction elements -does not decay or is burnt to ashes. In addition, each cubic metre of wood used as a substitute for other building materials reduces CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by an average of 1.1 tonnes of CO2. Consequently, each cubic meter of wood saves a total of 2 tonnes of CO2.The EU’s renewable energy policy, however, is leading to an increased use of wood for burning rather than for the production of products and objects. This may further increase as the EU strives to meet the target of 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions set for 2020, but Member States have also the alternative to count the carbon stored in wood products in their national accounts. The woodworking industries of Europe agree that biomass from wood is an excellent alternative to fossil fuels, but not any wood is biomass for energy. The woodworking industries insist that suitable wood assortments are used in the fi rst place for making wood products. This delivers better environmental results than using them immediately for energy purposes (as biomass) or as a basic material for biofuels. We urge the European Union to refl ect on ways to promote products made of naturally renewable materials, especially if those act as carbon sinks. So, the more wood products are consumed, the more wood will be available to use as biomass for energy. Contrary to other materials, people prefer wood because of its many benefi ts: from comfort and beauty to clean air and a brighter prospect for our planet. By using the wood in a cascade of different ways, we will not only preserve a thriving and creative industry, but also the more than 2.1 million jobs it provides in Europe, and will be storing 104 million tonnes of CO2 per year4. Thanks to the political activity in Europe, there should be more effective rules against Climate Change, leading to an increase of the “carbon absorption” effect in forests and of carbon storage in trees, wood and wood products. This way we would enhance the use of wood as building material. To implement these rules, the European Union is counting on its Member States to develop national rules and action initiatives. This way, EU Member States will take part in the development of the use of wood materials and wood products, which will in turn encourage the continued improvement in the management of our forests.