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How can wood products help mitigate climate change?

Did you know that wood products can help Slovenia mitigate climate change? That’s right, using more wood in construction and other sectors can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon for a long time. This is what a recent study from InnoRenew CoE researchers, has shown!

The study used a new optimisation model to estimate how much wood products can contribute to the Paris Agreement goal of Slovenia of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The Paris Agreement is a deal signed by almost 200 countries to cut down their emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The study found that Slovenia can achieve 55% less emissions by 2030 if it increases its logging to at least 3 million cubic meters and uses more wood for long-lasting products, such as buildings and furniture.

Why is this important?

Because wood products can replace other materials that have higher emissions, such as concrete and steel. This is called the substitution effect, and it can make a big difference in reducing the carbon footprint of our society. Wood products also store carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere if the trees were left to decay or burned (e.g. incinerated for energy purpose). This is known as the carbon storage effect, which is larger with increased durability (in time) of the products and can additionally help keeping greenhouse gases away from the atmosphere.

Of course, this does not mean that Slovenia should cut down all the trees but continue to manage the forests sustainably and make sure that the wood is used efficiently and responsibly. Also the carbon impacts of harvesting, processing, and transporting wood products needs to be accounted for. To help this work, the official carbon accounting methods, which are currently not very clear or consistent, need to recognize the value of wood products.

So, next time you see a wooden building or a wooden chair, remember that they are not only beautiful and durable, but also good for the climate. Wood products are part of the solution to one of the biggest challenges of our time.

Read the full scientific paper here:

Schau EM, Gavrić I, Šušteršič I, Prelovšek Niemelä E, Dávid B, Pečnik JG, DeVallance DB, Tavzes Č. Modelling the Slovenian Wood Industry’s Response to the Greenhouse Gas Paris Agreement and the EU “Fit for 55” Green Transition Plan. Sustainability. 2023; 15(10):8376.

Dr. Erwin M. Schau, InnoRenew CoE