European forests can mitigate over 20% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions

Published on
December 8, 2017

The European forests and forest sector are already making an important contribution to combating climate change at present. Not only through sequestering CO2 in the forest ecosystem, but active management also produces wood products that replace energy-intensive materials such as concrete and steel.

Furthermore, discarded wood and wood of low quality is used to generate energy. This avoids the use of coal, oil and gas. Together, the EU forest and wood use already compensates 12% of the total EU greenhouse gas emissions at present.

Climate-smart forestry

In a new study in the Journal 'Forests' it was shown that this contribution can become even greater around 2050. The authors state that through Climate Smart Forestry (CSF) the total contribution can reach more than 20% of the total EU greenhouse gas emissions. Lead author Gert-Jan Nabuurs of Wageningen Environmental Research says: 'We assume that countries take the climate problem serious, and that they want to take action in all sectors including the forests and forest sector'.

More than 20% compensation for EU greenhouse gas emissions

Climate-smart forest management looks very closely at the local conditions and takes appropriate measures and also in a wide variety. E.g. in some regions in Europe we see forest mortality occurring in Norway spruce in central Europe. In those regions you rejuvenate the forest with new climate adapted species. In other places CSF may be aimed at reducing the fire risk, or in other regions it aims at improving forest production and stimulating the use of wood in construction. In again other places forest management can be focused on biodiversity and set up strict reservations. We have calculated all these measures. Then you get a total contribution of more than 20% compensation for the entire EU greenhouse gas emissions.

What we point out further is that climate policy devotes far too little attention to this. The current regulation gives far too few incentives to implement all these measures.
Climate-smart forest management seeks synergy with eg raw material supply, biodiversity protection, building with wood, prevention of forest mortality, etc. But it requires incentives and stimulation and then forest owners, forest industry, local governments and NGOs can get started.