The role of Sustainable Forestry – Trees and beyond
What is a sustainable forestry?
Sustainable forestry refers to forest management practices following sustainable development principles. The key is to balance forest management to meet ecological and environmental needs with socio-economic needs. Sustainable forestry companies implement management plans that aim to mimic natural patterns of regeneration – allowing for some tree removal, but not clear cutting.
Companies that sustainably manage and harvest their forests can be certified under a sustainability standard such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and/or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Sustainable forestry contributes to three of the seventeen sustainable goals:
What about Principle 13, Climate Action? Does sustainable forestry lead to CO2e avoidance?
Trees are the lungs of the planet. They remove CO2 from the atmosphere and return clean air. While they do that very vital function, we cannot also forget that they help fight erosion, contribute to water retention, and promotes biodiversity. Currently the best carbon sequestration technology we have are… trees! Sustainable forestry is the only sequestration solution in Clima’s universe, but sustainable forestry also has an element of CO2 avoidance in it.
We can go on and on about forests and why they matter but let us focus on climate change and CO2 avoidance. Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere and retain it in its biomass and in the forest soil. Therefore, removing forests, clear cutting large areas of contiguous forests beyond the natural cycle is not only removing the existing carbon reservoir, but also the opportunity to continue the process of removing CO2. And if we remove the existing reservoir, then some of the CO2 that was taken out of the atmosphere will be returned to the atmosphere.
That is why sustainable forestry management matters for CO2 avoidance. Sustainable forestry is guided by the principles that maintain the integrity of forests. It allows harvesting just the right amount of forest resources, without negatively impacting the natural cycle. It also supports a healthier forest, reduces the risk of forest fires by removing dead biomass, and promotes better forest growth.
What can sustainable forestry accomplish?
Sustainable forestry can protect the destruction of millions of hectares that act as carbon sinks and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. According to a WWF report, a total of 181 million hectares have been certified under FSC alone.
In other words, companies that have sought sustainable forestry management certification under such standards as FSC are committing to such practices that can ensure the integrity of the forest, while meeting forest resource demand; thus, allowing forest carbon stocks to be maintained or to increase while meeting society’s needs of fibre, timber, and energy.
In addition, forest products do retain some of the sequestered CO2 in its biomass after harvest – it is not immediately releases like a balloon that pops! – so it can be assumed that not all the sequestered CO2 will be released at that point. However, it is important to understand that the release must be managed. Even if a portion is retained in timber, if a forest is clear cut, it is still a significant release of carbon.
Is sustainable forestry only about the trees?
Sustainable forestry certified product goes beyond the forest: the commitment to use products certified such as FCS and/or PEFC can carry through the supply chain and through different products. Companies that are not managing forests, but manufacture or trade forest products and are sustainable forestry management certified, show a commitment to supporting and sourcing products from sustainable forests.
Forest products are not just trees and timber products. It includes pulp and paper, packaging, cellulose, and biomass for energy. For example, Ence Energia y Celulosa S.A. is a European producer of eucalyptus pulp and is the first Spanish company producing renewable energy with agricultural and forestry biomass with an installed energy power capacity of 223MW. Their comprehensive management of forest covers the entire value chain and allows the application of best practices in forestry plantations and their utilization leading to greater efficiency in energy production and pulp. Ence’s forest assets are FSC and PEFC certified.
Sumitomo Forestry Co. Ltd. manages and owns approximately 48 thousand hectares of domestic forest certified by the Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council and 230 thousand hectares overseas within Southeast Asia and Oceania. Sumitomo’s operating segments include Timber and Building Materials, Housing and Construction, Overseas Housing and Real Estate and its Environment and Resources Businesses which includes biomass energy from waste timber. The company’s total hectares of forest represent a carbon stock of 13.1 million tonnes of CO2 as reported by Sumitomo in 2019.
The next time you are buying wrapping paper, a box to ship a package, timber, or any forest derived product, look for a certification label. Then you will know the forest integrity is maintained, the product is ethically sourced, and the forest carbon stock is being preserved.
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