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Wood energy expanding due to policy promotion in the UNECE region

Published: 19 April 2005


The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) just released the UNECE/FAO Forests, Wood and Energy: Policy Interactions. It examines the impacts of energy, environment and forest policy on new and traditional forest products markets in the UNECE region of Europe, North America and the CIS countries. After an overview of renewable energy policies and political drivers affecting wood energy, especially in the European Union, it looks at what impacts wood energy policies might have on the market. The basis of the information stems from a UNECE policy forum organised to emphasize cross-sectoral viewpoints on international forest policy and the market effects from wood used for energy. The discussions focussed on how promoting wood energy might affect other forest sector and non-forest sector policies. Its main findings are:

  • International, national and regional policies to promote sustainable energy, including. wood and wood fibre, are influencing production, trade and consumption of forest products and their manufacturing co-products. Arising from the increased environmental awareness, including climate change, and the high cost of fossil fuels, wood energy has become a current topic for policymakers.

  • Schemes promoting wood energy cause market shifts in competitive energy and wood raw material markets. However, these shifts can be positive for forest owners seeking alternative markets for low-grade wood and biomass and for the modern biofuel industry, But they can be negative for traditional industries competing for the same raw materials, e.g., for panel and pulp manufacturing.

  • International biofuel and energy markets are developing rapidly but unevenly in the UNECE region, as evidenced by the consumption of wood for energy in western Europe rising to a record level in recent years.

  • UNECE region forests produce more wood every day than is harvested, and many countries have policies to put some of the surplus growth of forests into modern wood-fired energy production.

  • Russia has the potential to become the main supplier of woody biomass for large-scale energy production, both domestically and abroad.

  • Foresters need to engage with policymakers in other sectors and the public so that the opportunities offered by wood energy are fully recognised.

  • Modern wood-based energy is expected to continue expanding, but at what rate and to what geographical extent is an open question. Its development will be impacted by energy, environment and forestry policies, as well as market prices for wood fuel, the availability of woody biomass for energy purposes, and competitive fossil fuel prices.


Notes for editors

Forests, Wood and Energy: Policy Interactions is the proceedings and summary of the discussions from the “Policy Forum: Forests, Wood and Energy” and the annual UNECE Timber Committee Market Discussions with their theme, the “Market effects of wood energy policies”. Both were held in October 2003 at the Committee’s annual session. This Geneva Timber and Forest Discussion Paper captures the essence of the discussions, and incorporates twelve expert papers and presentations in full colour.

For further information please contact Mr. Ed Pepke, Forest Products Marketing Specialist, telephone +41 (0) 22 917 2872.

For a copy of the Certification Discussion Paper visit the homepage of the UNECE Timber Committee and the FAO European Forestry Commission, send a fax, an e-mail message or write to:

UNECE/FAO Timber Branch

Trade Development and Timber Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0041
E-mail: info.timber@unece.org
Web site: http://www.unece.org/trade/timber

Ref: ECE/TIM/05/P03

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05