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The contributions of forests to climate change adaptation and mitigation

Forests are one of the major reservoirs of carbon and this could be even further increased. The use of wood helps mitigate climate change in many ways. Innovative and sustainably produced wood products, when coupled with sustainable forest management, can ‘build the future’ and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In a sector such as construction, which accounts for 6% of global energy consumption and 11% of energy-related CO2 emissions, wood materials can contribute substantially to moving towards sustainability. In this context, UNECE is raising awareness with the video “The Three Little Pigs and Climate Change”.

The Forest Products Annual Market Review features an annual chapter on innovative wood products. One of these, cellulose fibres, can also provide alternative materials for other sectors such as textiles, which relies on water-intensive crops like cotton, and carbon-intensive materials like polyester.

In many developing countries, wood energy provides the majority of total energy supply and, surprisingly, in several developed countries, wood energy provides nearly 25% of total energy supply. Wood energy continues to be the leading renewable energy source in Europe, accounting for about 45% of primary energy from renewable sources.

The Rovaniemi Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy highlights the important role that forests play in the context of climate change beyond reducing CO2 emissions. Forests are key to maintaining air and water quality, to combating desertification and to the development of rural communities.

The Rovaniemi Action Plan proposes to enhance and inspire an integrated approach to address climate change through mitigation and adaptation. It aims to trigger actions which promote the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions by:

  • Substituting wood from sustainable sources for non-renewable materials and energy;
  • Efficient production, processing and use of wood raw material;
  • Managing the risks associated with a changing climate in the forest sector;
  • Sequestration and storage of carbon in forest ecosystems and harvested wood products.

Addressing these issues requires a long-term vision supported by national strategies and action plans to ensure the sustainable management and use of forests. The Rovaniemi Action Plan aims to improve management of forests in order to optimise carbon sequestration and storage in forests and wood products while ensuring the sustainability of all forest functions.