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Increased wood mobilization from sustainable sources is possible, and necessary for a more renewable energy future?

Published:29 June 2009

Geneva

There is significant potential to enhance the supply of wood from forests throughout Europe in a sustainable manner. Wood mobilization, for renewable energy and industrial raw materials, should be further encouraged as a contribution to a sustainable society. This was the overriding consensus of the workshop “Strategies for increased wood mobilization from sustainable sources” organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNECE/FAO) with partners and held on 16-18 June 2009 in Grenoble, France.

At present, woody biomass accounts for more than half of renewable energies within the European Union. This contribution needs to be enhanced in scale if countries are to meet the ambitious renewable energy targets set by policymakers, notably 20% renewable energy by 2020 in European Union member States. The greatest potential for enlarging wood supply is vested in harvesting larger amounts of stem wood from forests and a greater part of forest biomass such as branches and tops of trees. In addition, mobilizing a greater share of post-consumer recovered wood as well as biomass from outside of forests, notably from agricultural or urban land, can also make an increasing important contribution.

Sustainability as the overriding principle of harvesting additional biomass must be assured, taking into account other forest ecosystem services such as biodiversity, watershed and land protection, overall climate change mitigation objectives, as well as social and economic considerations. Harvesting more from forests can be sustainable as long as it is below increment, only 60% of which is reached within Europe at present.

Kit Prins, Chief, UNECE/FAO Timber Section, summarizes the findings of the workshop: “There are an impressive number of actions already taken by industry and governments to develop and implement concrete measures for sustainable wood mobilization on the ground. Examples range from encouraging cooperation between forest owners, consolidating land ownership structures, establishing public-private partnerships and virtual marketplaces, to improving the accessibility of forests, in particular in mountain areas, and investment in infrastructure and logistics. Policymakers and industry throughout the region should be made aware of such best practices, assess their applicability, and encourage the development of local and regional mobilization strategies. As a prerequisite, they need to carry out an assessment of the wood resources potentially available, an effort which UNECE/FAO has supported, on the basis of its past research and studies on potential sustainable wood supply.”

Following the review of wood mobilization activities by policymakers and national-level actors during the workshop, a next step will be the development of good practice guidance on sustainable wood mobilization, an effort which UNECE/FAO, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe and the European Commission, have been requested to lead, together with partners. The results of this work should become available by the end of 2009, to serve as guidance for countries in developing renewable energies strategies and actions, notably the national renewable energy action plans to be drawn up by EU member States.

The workshop was organized as a joint effort by UNECE/FAO, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, the European Forest Institute, Confederation of European Paper Industries, Confederation of European Private Forest Owners and the European State Forest Organization, the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations/ General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives, and the European Network of Forest Entrepreneurs. The French Ministry of Agriculture was an important partner as the host country, as was CEMAGREF, the hosting institution.

The workshop conclusions and recommendations, presentations and background paper are available at: http://timber.unece.org/index.php?id=158

The UNECE/FAO study on potential sustainable wood supply is available at: http://www.unece.org/timber/docs/tc-sessions/tc-66/pd-docs/Paper_PotentialWoodSupply_v18Oct.pdf

For further information, please contact:

Juan Ramos Garcia

UNECE/FAO Timber Section
Palais des Nations, Office 435-1
1211 Geneva 10
Phone : +41 (0)22 917 24 80
Email : Franziska.Hirsch@unece.org

Ref: ECE/TIM/09/P03


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