A proposal from the timber industry in the United Kingdom to increase forest cover as a means of capturing and storing carbon is not exactly ground-breaking, but it could make a massive environmental difference.
The plan, devised by UK timber industry body Wood for Good, has been submitted to the (UK) Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) £1 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) program.
In a statement released last week, Wood for Good said it is promoting increased forest cover as a means of sequestering the UK’s carbon emissions and is calling on the government to invest available funds in sustainable forestry, which it says involves harvesting trees at the peak of their growth and carbon sequestration ability. New trees would then be planted to create a continuous, renewable cycle.
Wood for Good spokesperson David Hopkins says increasing forest cover is cheaper, more efficient and more effective than any other method of carbon capture and storage, and that the role of forests in tackling climate change cannot be understated.
“Increased forest cover is recognised as one of the most effective weapons we have in the battle against climate change,” he says. “It is cost effective, efficient, does not require green subsidies, and creates huge benefits for the economy throughout the forest products supply chain. Investing now would be a win-win for the environment and the economy.”
Wood for Good says that if the entirety of the £1 billion in direct funding DECC will award as part of the competition were invested in commercial forestry, this would allow for thee plantation of roughly 1.1 billion trees covering an area of 500,000 hectares. These trees would capture an average of 10 million tonnes of carbon per year, or the equivalent of 36.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
In contrast, Wood For Good says, recently announced plans by Shell to invest $US1.36 billion in carbon capture and storage at a tar sands project in Canada will capture only one million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Hopkins stresses that Wood for Good is not criticising Shell’s program or any other carbon capture technologies, but notes it is important to remember the natural role of forests.
He says the Europe’s forests currently provide a ‘carbon sink’ for 150 to 200 billion tonnes worth of carbon dioxide, and that in the UK alone, a mere four per cent increase in forest cover would deliver abatement equivalent to 10 per cent of total greenhouse emissions.
He says the importance of carbon storage in forest and wood products is recognised in emerging land use legislation in Europe as well as in a report by the Independent Panel on Forestry.
“We are not arguing against the development of new technologies, but we do want to highlight the fact that existing industries with existing solutions can play a significant role in the green economy,” Hopkins says. “If the Government is wondering where it can get the best bang for its buck in terms of carbon reduction and economic output, it should try to see the wood for the trees.”