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UNECE region accounts for 87% of the world’s certified forest area

Published: 13 October 2016

The certified forest area coverage extended across 11% of global forests in 2015. The UNECE region, with about 40% (1.6 billion hectares) of the global forest estate, accounted for 87% of the total global certified forest area (graph 1). Of the global certified forest area, 48% is in North America, 25% in Western Europe, and 14% is in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), according to the UNECE/FAO Forest Products Annual Market Review 2015-2016 released today.

Forest certification provides consumers with assurance that the products they purchase come from forests that are managed in conformity with laws and standards that guarantee their sustainability such as those related to biodiversity and water quality, sustainable harvest levels, and prompt regeneration.

Forest certification is a market-based tool that promotes sustainable forest management. In the Paris Climate Agreement adopted in December 2015, sustainable forest management and the reduction of emissions from deforestation have been recognized as efficient ways to address climate change.

Last year, roundwood production from certified forests was estimated to account for 29% of global roundwood production that is processed mainly to sawnwood, panels and pulp and paper products. Virtually all of the global certified roundwood production (97%) came from UNECE countries, but certified production is also increasing outside the region. The impact of stringent import regulations in Europe (the EU Timber Regulation) and North America (the Lacey Act) to stop imports of illegal timber, is slowly motivating African, Latin American and Asian producers to obtain certification for their forestlands in order to have access to all markets.

Roundwood consumption at its highest level in almost ten years

The consumption of roundwood in the UNECE region, comprising logs for industrial uses and fuel, increased by 1.2% in 2015 to reach the highest level in almost ten years. Removals of industrial roundwood were up by 2% in Europe in 2015, by 1.1% in the CIS sub region and by 0.1% in North America. 

The UNECE region continues to be a net exporter of logs; shipments of softwood logs from North America and the Russian Federation to China and the Republic of Korea are among the world’s largest log trade flows.

Exports picking up in the CIS

Over the past 5 years, CIS countries principally the Russian Federation, have increased exports of forest products by more than 20%. Exports of sawn softwood increased by 20%, sawn hardwood by 55%, and panels by 86% making the CIS sub-region one of the main producers of forest products globally. In the wood-based panel sector, significant investments sustained production and competitiveness especially in the Russian Federation where revenues in the sector have grown by an annual average of 17% in the last four years.

The wood-based panels industry accounted for 13% of the total revenue generated by the forest sector in the Russian Federation in 2015 and stood out for its performance, with year over year production growth of 3 %, and export growth of 14.2%.

In 2015, local currency weaknesses helped to sustain exports and counterbalance challenging domestic economic conditions; thus while consumption and imports decreased, production remained relatively stable.

Higher CO2 sequestration: wooden packaging production on the rise

The wooden packaging industry, including pallets, has recovered from the 2008 economic crisis in North America and Europe. It is estimated that there are about 4 billion pallets in circulation in Europe and about 2 billion in the US. This is an estimated 160 million kg of CO2 sequestered in wooden packaging; a similar amount of CO2 would be saved by taking 31 thousand cars for one year off the road. Wooden pallets play an important role in the movement and storage of goods worldwide by providing a safe, effective transport and storage platform throughout the handling and distribution process. In comparison with other materials, wood pallets have clear advantages as they are ecofriendly and sustainably produced; for example, plastic pallets are made of oil - a finite resource - and their manufacturing processes are energy intensive (up to five times more than wooden pallets) and could contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, recent studies show wooden pallets as safer from the sanitary perspective - bacteria have a greater survival rate on plastics than on wood.

In Europe, the production of pallets and wooden packaging has been shifting to Eastern Europe, where costs are lower. Pallet prices have been reasonably stable in Europe since 2013; in North America, prices increased between 2013 and 2016 by an average of 3.8% per year.

Wooden barrel and other wooden packaging production has been booming in the last few years. Barrel production in France, the global top producer, increased by 170% between 2012 and 2014. Similarly, in the US the barrel industry has been booming, driven largely by a 50% increase in the production of bourbon whiskey between 2010 and 2013. France and the US dominate global barrel exports, accounting for about US$807 million and US$450 million, respectively, of the value of barrel exports in 2015.

For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/forests/fpamr2016.html or contact:

claudia.trentini@unece.org


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