Universities, research institutes and forward-looking companies are already producing completely new wood applications at an accelerating pace.
In the woods related valuation issues involve a bipolar position, in which the forest is seen only as a carbon sink and a site of protection, on the one hand, and as a raw material depot for the current forest industry and its products, on the other.
In fact, I would like to emphasize more in the debate that new industrial wood products have a role to play as a partial solution to the climate crisis as they replace fossil products.
According to press reports, the EU’s forestry strategy has now also taken into account the substitution of fossil products for shorter-lived wood products and thus the reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is a good thing.
Let’s put it to the test: let’s imagine that we develop an entirely new wood-based product with a value chain – including the calculated reduction in carbon sequestration associated with harvesting – with a one-pound carbon footprint. If that product replaces a fossil-like product that, with its value chains, produces two kilograms of (fossil) carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then we have removed one kilogram of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere compared to a fossil product. The wood product itself is then a carbon sink. In the long run, the wood product is in any case carbon neutral.
Universities, research institutes and forward-looking companies are already producing brand new wood applications at an accelerating pace, replacing traditional fossil products and materials. My own research group at Aalto University is also doing this research.
If we regulate the forest primarily as a carbon sink, we may at the same time make a choice that favors fossil fuel products and increases the carbon dioxide content of the air. It is good to be aware of this when using the forest discussion.
working life professor
bioproduct technology, Aalto University
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