Study analyses contribution of wood products to climate change mitigation

A new science policy report on the value of wood-based products as substitutes to greenhouse gas intensive-materials in terms of climate benefits has been released by the European Forest Institute (EFI)

News Post - 29 Nov 2018

The European Forest Institute (EFI) released a new science-policy report that demonstrates the value of wood-based products as substitutes to greenhouse gas intensive-materials in terms of climate benefits.

The authors reviewed 51 existing studies and provided an up-to-date synthesis of scientific knowledge on the greenhouse gas emissions of products made from wood and from alternative materials, over their entire lifetime.

While forests is well perceived to play a positive role in climate change, wood products’ contribution is much less known and understood. The latest report on greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and related processes does not does not attribute the substitution benefits of wood-based products directly to the forest sector. However, this information is important when developing optimal strategies on how forests and the forest sector can maximise their contribution to climate change mitigation.

The study concludes that for each ton of carbon (C) in wood products that substitute non-wood products, average emissions are reduced by approximately 1.2 ton C. This corresponds to about 2.2 ton of CO2 emissions reduction per ton of wood product. The substitution effects vary significantly, depending on the wood product and technology considered and the methods used to estimate emissions.

The study coordinator, Pekka Leskinen, said: “It is also crucial to remember that the greenhouse gas substitution impact of wood products is only one component in climate change mitigation. The substitution factor alone should not form the basis of policies, since the overall climate impacts of forests depend also on forest carbon sinks, forest soil and carbon stored in wood products.”

The study also identifies the limitations and important research gaps that should be covered in order for gain a better understanding of the substitution effects. One example includes the lack of knowledge on the climate impacts of emerging wood-based products like textiles and biochemicals.

The report’s main outcomes and policy recommendations will be discussed at the ThinkForest seminar, ‘Climate policy and forest bioeconomy’ in Brussels on 4 December.


Further information

Pekka Leskinen, Giuseppe Cardellini, Sara González-García, Elias Hurmekoski, Roger Sathre, Jyri Seppälä, Carolyn Smyth, Tobias Stern and Pieter Johannes Verkerk. 2018. Substitution effects of wood-based products in climate change mitigation. From Science to Policy 7. European Forest Institute.

The study is published on 28 November 2018, and is freely downloadable:

About EFI:

EFI leads a work package on the design of the BioMonitor toolbox, which will contain enhanced tools and models for monitoring the development of the European bioeconomy. EFI also leads a case study on new wood-based products and contributes to the development of indicators on industrial uses of biomass, as well as scenario analysis of the future bioeconomy development.