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Forests and the forest sector should play an active role in climate change mitigation and adaptation

Forests represent a significant potential for climate change mitigation. In a joint COP24 statement, twelve European trade bodies representing farmers, forest- and landowners as well as the wood processing industries call on the parties to the Paris Agreement to recognise in their conclusions of the COP24 the role of actively managed forests in climate mitigation and adaptation.

Forests represent a significant potential for climate change mitigation. In a joint COP24 statement, twelve European trade bodies representing farmers, forest- and landowners as well as the wood processing industries call on the parties to the Paris Agreement to recognise in their conclusions of the COP24 the role of actively managed forests in climate mitigation and adaptation. Thinning, the primary aim of which is to increase the growth and quality of the remaining trees is one such management tool. Depending on quality, size, species, volume, and local/regional market conditions, the removed roundwood can be used for a number of different purposes including energy.

The twelve signatory bodies are the European Biomass Association (Bioenergy Europe), European Organisation of Agricultural, Rural and Forestry Contractors (CEETAR), European Confederation of Woodworking Industries (CEI-BOIS), Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF), European Farmers and European Agri-cooperatives (COPA & COGECA), European Landowners Organisation (ELO), European Organisation of the Sawmill Industry (EOS), European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR), European Federation of Forest-Owning Communities (FECOF), Union of European Foresters (UEF) and Union of Foresters of Southern Europe (USSE).

Representing the entire European forest industry value-chain, both public and private, the signing organizations call on the parties to the Paris Agreement to recognise in their conclusions of the COP24 the role of actively managed forests in climate mitigation and adaptation, in particular:

  • highlight the potential for carbon storage in wood products and substitution of fossil materials and energy for climate change mitigation through the increased use of wood and its products;
  • enhance the absorption of CO2 through active forest management and the creation of new forests;
  • adapting forest management practice to make forests more resilient to changing climatic conditions.

Representing 13 percent of the net removals of EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) in forests, carbon storage and the substitution of fossil material and energy have a crucial role to play in the international negotiations of the COP24.

Freshly harvested forest fibre (spruce pulpwood in the foreground and sawlogs in the background) awaiting collection to begin its transformation process into sawn wood, pulp, paper, biochemical and bioenergy products. The harvested site will be replanted for the next generation forest cycle.

At the same time, forests are seriously affected by climate change – this past summer has clearly shown that global warming causes an increased amount of forest fires and leads to an extension of areas affected by wildfires. Forest fires not only represent a serious danger for the climate, environment, and biodiversity, but also a serious threat for human beings and rural areas.

Furthermore, the occurrence of other natural disturbances such as storms, insects’ outbreaks, extended periods of drought and heat waves are increasingly reported by forest owners and managers and are projected to further increase due to global warming.

A solution to counteract these negative tendencies is sustainable adaptive forest management which creates synergies between climate change mitigation and adaptation needs.

According to the signatories, the forest sector contributes to climate change mitigation by replacing fossil-based materials and energy by woody biomass, while making sure forests continue growing and providing their multiple services.

Moreover, developing markets for forestry residues will make climate adaptation measures, such as regular thinnings, economically more attractive for forest owners with a positive long-term impact on the viability and health of forests.

Mixed fuelwood awaiting chipping at a biomass terminal. These logs have been rejected by sawmills and pulp mills as they fail to meet quality criteria. Bioenergy offers a value to an otherwise unmerchantable log.

As a consequence, sustainably managed forests will become more resilient against natural disturbances, such as storms and fires, have a higher productivity leading to higher carbon sequestration and in result providing more raw material to substitute carbon intensive material and energy.

Fostering synergies between climate change mitigation measures and untapped market-based potential of forest sector via sustainable forest management will give them an active role in limiting global warming.

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