This is the conclusion of the recently held International Seminar on Energy and Forest Products Industry, organised by the FAO's Forestry Department in Rome, in which intergovernmental and private sector organisations of the global forest product industry joined forces. Participants stressed that well integrated and carefully balanced energy and forest policies around the globe set the stage for these developments. Governments, industry, institutions and society at large each have a role to play and should work together.
The forest products industry is a major consumer of energy, using 6 percent of total industrial energy use in 2003. But the industry also produces energy, as well as other by-products that can be used for energy generation: biofuels such as solid biomass (wood chips, pellets, briquettes, fibres and residues from the forest products industry - for green electricity generation) or feedstocks for the production of liquid fuels (wood as feedstock for thermochemical or biochemical biomass-to-liquids conversion processes, resulting in renewable and CO2-neutral fuels such as pyrolysis oil or synthetic wood-based biodiesel).
The forest products industry is the only sector that already generates approximately 50 percent of its own energy needs, the majority from renewable carbon-neutral biomass. Energy costs, energy supply and climate change are amongst the core issues impacting on the future of the forest products industry.
The forest products industry can be part of the solution for climate change if committed to technological changes and energy efficiency. It has the exceptional ability to become a net supplier of a range of energy products and it could, in combination with carbon capture and storage, become an important actor in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. - Neil Hirst, Director of Energy Technology of the International Energy Agency (IEA)Wulf Killmann, Director of Forest Products and Economics at FAO, said that this potential needs to be tapped. "Governments have a key role to play in encouraging industries to use cleaner and more efficient energy technologies and in promoting bio-energy."
The experts came to these conclusions on the basis of a series of highly interesting presentations by a variety of scientists, international institutions, industry players and NGO's:
biomass :: bioenergy :: biofuels :: energy :: sustainability :: forestry :: forest products :: wood pellets :: biorefining :: biomass-to-liquids :: climate change ::
The presentations covered a wide range of topics, from (EU) policies and industry efforts on increasing the efficiency of the paper and pulp industry to interesting scenario work on the forestry-based bioenergy sector.
Amongst the latter we find:
• Energy Technology Perspectives Scenarios & Strategies to 2050 [*.pdf], Neil Hirst, Energy Technology and R&D Office International Energy Agency
• Review of global bioenergy scenarios [*.pdf], W.E. Mabee and J.N. Saddler (Forest Products Biotechnology at UBC)
• Forest biorefining and implications forfuture wood energy scenarios [*.pdf], W.E. Mabee, J.N. Saddler, Forest Products Biotechnology at UBC
Understandably, social and environmental sustainability issues ranked high on the conference's agenda as well. Presentations on the tension between sustainability and economic viability included:
• The sustainable Forest products industry, carbon and climate change [*.pdf], Mikael Hannus, Stora Enso, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
• Wood waste for energy: Lessons learnt from tropical regions [*.pdf], Paul Vantomme, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO)
• Economic and environmental implications of woodfuel production and competition with other uses [*.pdf], Bernard deGalembert, CEPI
• Nature conservation concerns linked to the development of the bioenergy sector –WWF's perspective [*.pdf], László Máthé, Forest and bioenergy officer WWF
Bioenergy's role in the fight against climate change was highlighted in the following presentations:
• Greenhouse gas and carbon profile of the global forest products industry [*.pdf], Reid Miner, NCASI - Dr. John Perez-Garcia, University of Washington
• Voluntary Efforts against Global Warming and Benchmarks [*.pdf], Hiraku Nihei, Managing Director, Japan Paper Association
• Benchmarking Energy Use and GHG Emissions [*.pdf], Tom Roser, Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC)
Several case-studies from Europe and Japan on the use of wood-based bioenergy were presented as well , as were industry-specific topics on pulp and paper manufacturing and larger economic studies on biofuels, bioenergy, climate change and energy.
Teresa Presas, Chair of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) concluded for her sector that "wood and paper products are uniquely renewable and recyclable products that help reducing greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere". The industry is committed to innovative energy solutions that meet the challenge of climate change, increase efficiency, reduce reliance on fossil fuel and expand the use of renewable energy sources. The industry believes that fibre from sustainable managed forests makes a positive contribution to the world's future energy supply.
"To achieve this", Presas said, "the industry needs enabling policies that support research and innovation, promote demonstration projects and improve the investment climate, specifically in this sector. Moreover there needs to be a level playing field between energy and non-energy uses of wood, considering that all this has to take place within the boundaries of sustainable forest management."
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) would be glad to see the global forest product industry taking a stronger role in the energy and climate change mitigation field, but also sets some requirements. "WWF considers that sustainable bioenergy has to be part of the global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other measures aiming to reduce the ecological footprint. Credible certification of bioenergy feedstocks with a focus on social and environmental issues - including greenhouse gas calculations - and land use planning are part of the solution to ensure the sustainability of development", said Duncan Pollard, Director of the WWF Forests for Life Programme.
The seminar was jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA), in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
During the meeting, ICFPA, FAO, IEA and WWF agreed to continue working together to apply the unique potential of the forest products sector to mitigating climate change and increasing energy security. The IEA will prepare report back to the G8 with an analysis as part of the Gleneagles Summit Plan of Action and ICFPA will take forward its global CEO leadership statement on energy and climate change in June 2007 in Shanghai.