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Tackling climate change – the role of wood products

Published: 16 September 2008

Forests and wood play manifold roles in climate change mitigation: they sequester carbon from the atmosphere when they grow, produce wood energy to substitute fossil energy; deliver wood as renewable raw material which reduces greenhouse gas emissions when it substitutes more energy intensive material; and wood products are a store of carbon, keeping it from release to the atmosphere.

Although the capture and storage of carbon in forests is recognized in the Kyoto Protocol, the storage in wood products is not. Stock changes of wood products however influence the carbon balance in the short and medium term. The current increasing carbon stock in wood products observed in many countries thus contributes to climate change mitigation.

On 9-10 September, a workshop on Harvested Wood Products in the Context of Climate Change Policies was held in Geneva to discuss different approaches to account for carbon stored in wood products and their economic, social and ecological impacts. The meeting which was attended by more than 100 participants was jointly organized by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the UNECE/FAO Timber Section, and the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe Liaison Unit Oslo.

When drawing up national responses to climate change through the forest sector, different strategies should be considered and combined, including carbon capture by forests, storage in wood products, and substitution of fossil fuels and energy-intensive materials. A cascaded use of harvested wood first for wood products that can be recycled, then for energy is in most cases preferable to the direct use of wood for energy from the point of view of greenhouse gas emissions.

Christopher Prins, Chief of the UNECE/FAO Timber Section, explained that including wood products in the carbon reporting and accounting under the Kyoto Protocol in the framework of land-use, land use change and forestry should ensure that:

The workshop's chairman, Christian Kchli of Switzerland, concluded that simple, but feasible accounting approaches should be preferred to sophisticated solutions, which were difficult to implement. Considering the time schedule of the climate negotiations, consensus on Harvested Wood Products accounting has to be reached by mid-2009 if it is to be included in an agreement in Copenhagen in November 2009.

Presentations, as well as the conclusions and recommendations, are available online:


Christopher Prins, Chief, Timber Section

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe / Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Trade and Timber Division
Palais des Nations
CH-211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 2874
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0041
E-mail: info.timber@unece.org
Website: http://www.unece.org/timber/

Ref: ECE/TIM/08/P13

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