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EFSOS II - UN/ECE Forest sector and timber outlook study summary

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Issue date: 
September 25, 2011
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Timber Procurement


If no major policies or strategies are changed in the forest sector and trends outside it follow the lines described by the IPCC B2 scenario, consumption of forest products and wood energy will grow steadily and wood supply will expand to meet this demand (see Figure 24). All components of supply will have to expand, especially harvest residues (Reference scenario).

To maximise the forest sector’s contribution to climate change mitigation, the best strategy is to combine forest management focused on carbon accumulation in the forest (longer rotations and a greater share of thinnings) with a steady flow of wood for products and energy (Maximising biomass carbon scenario). In the long term however, the sequestration capacity limit of the forest will be reached, and the only potential for further mitigation will be regular harvesting, to store the carbon in harvested wood products or to avoid emissions from non-renewable materials and energy sources.

If wood is to play its part in reaching the targets for renewable energy, there would have to be a strong mobilisation of all types of wood. Supply would have to increase by nearly 50% in twenty years (Promoting wood energy scenario). However the mobilisation of such high volumes would have significant environmental, financial and institutional costs. To increase European wood supply from outside the existing forest sector, it would be necessary to establish short rotation coppice on agricultural land. This could significantly reduce the pressure on the existing European forest and help to build the share of renewables in energy supply, but at the cost of trade-offs with other land uses and, depending on site selection processes, landscape and biodiversity.

Demand for energy wood is directly determined by the efficiency with which it is used. Use efficiency is improved if wood is used for heat production or combined heat and power (CHP). Efficient wood burning installations equipped with the necessary filters prevent the emission of fine particles which are harmful to human health. If biodiversity were given priority, for instance by setting aside more land for biodiversity conservation and changing forest management to favour biodiversity, the supply of wood from European forest would be 12% less than in the  Reference scenario. This would necessitate reduced consumption of products and energy, and/or increased imports from other regions and/or intensified use of other sources like landscape care wood and wood originating from conservation management and short rotation coppice (Priority to biodiversity scenario).

A more innovative approach in all parts of the sector could create, defend or expand markets, create new opportunities, reduce costs and increase profitability (Fostering innovation and competitiveness scenario). Forest management also needs innovative approaches. Developing a culture of innovation is a complex challenge, going far beyond the boundaries of the forest sector.
Europe is, and will remain in all scenarios, a net exporter of wood and forest products: significant net exports of products outweigh relatively minor net imports of wood, even in the Promoting wood energy scenario. Supplies of landscape care wood (e.g. from urban and highway trees, hedges, orchards and other wooded land) and post-consumer wood have the potential to increase by about 50%, reducing waste disposal problems for society as a whole.

Projections show a steady rise in prices of forest products and wood over the whole period, driven by expanding global demand and increasing scarcity in several regions. A method developed for EFSOS II, which builds on the sustainability assessment of the State of Europe’s Forests 2011 (SoEF 2011) report (FOREST EUROPE, UNECE and FAO, 2011), has been used to review the sustainability of the Reference scenario and all three quantified policy scenarios. Most parameters, in this experimental method, are relatively satisfactory. The main concern is for biodiversity, as increased harvest pressure in all scenarios, except for the  Priority to biodiversity scenario, lowers the amount of deadwood and reduces the share of old stands. The Promoting wood energy scenario shows a decline in sustainability with regards to forest resources and carbon, due to the heavy pressure of increased wood extraction to meet the renewable energy targets.

The European forest will have to adapt to changing climate conditions, whose effects will vary widely by geographic area and forest type. Forest management needs to support the adaptation process either by increasing the natural adaptive capacity (e.g. by enhancing genetic and species diversity) or with targeted planned adaptation measures (e.g. introducing an adapted management system or other species). To manage this adaptation process, more scientific and forest monitoring information is needed. For decisions now, the further development of existing regional forest management guidelines is important, as well as the implementation of decision-support systems.

Forest sector policies, institutions and instruments in Europe are in general stable, recent and effective, and increasingly enjoy public support through the participatory nature of national forest programme (NFP) processes. However the challenges posed by climate change, energy and biodiversity issues are exceptionally complex and long term, and require quite profound changes if they are to be satisfactorily resolved. It will require a very high level of sophisticated cross-sectoral policy making, sharply focused policy instruments and strong political will to mobilise enough wood for energy, to implement the right balance between carbon sequestration and substitution and to conserve biodiversity without sacrificing wood supply, and thereby to make the best possible contribution to the sustainable development of society as a whole.

For policy makers
Climate mitigation: policy measures should be put in place to encourage the optimum combination of carbon sequestration and storage with substitution, as well as systems to monitor trends for this, to enable adjustment of the incentive system in the light of results attained.

Carbon stock in forests: prevent any reduction of the carbon stock in forests, for instance due to fire, pests and insects or pollution.
Adaptation to climate change: guidelines, by region and forest type, based on the best available scientific knowledge, should be developed to support practitioners in their decisions, and to build resilience in European forests. Wood energy: a strategy should be drawn up, at the national level, which integrates the needs of the energy sector with those of the forest sector, and is produced after a scientifically based dialogue between forest sector and energy sector policy makers.

Wood supply: guidance, based on best available scientific knowledge, should be prepared on what levels of extraction of harvest residues and stumps are sustainable, in what forest types. Short rotation coppice: develop national strategies for rural land use, integrating concerns related to sustainable supply of food, raw material and energy, as well as the other functions of forests, and all aspects of rural development.

Wood energy use: ensure that wood, like other energy sources, is used as efficiently and cleanly as possible. Wood mobilisation: implement the existing wood mobilisation guidance, monitoring success/lack of success, and modifying the guidance in the light of experience.
Post-consumer wood: remove constraints on the mobilisation of post-consumer wood.Biodiversity: identify win-win areas and forest management techniques where biodiversity, wood supply and carbon sequestration can be combined, and then implement measures to promote these practices.

Innovation: governments should work to develop good conditions for innovation.
Forest ecosystem services: provide positive framework conditions for payment for forest ecosystem services. Move from the pilot phase to implementation of schemes which have proved their effectiveness and are applicable to local circumstances.

Policies and institutions: countries should review whether their forest sector policies and institutions are equipped to address the challenges of climate change, renewable energy and conserving biodiversity, and whether intersectoral coordination in these areas is functioning properly.

Assessment of sustainability: countries should develop objective methods of assessing the present and future sustainability of forest management, preferably linked to the regional systems under development.

Outlook studies: develop national/regional outlook studies, possibly based on EFSOS II, and use them as the basis for policy discussions.


For international organisations

Adaptation of forest management to climate change: encourage the sharing of knowledge and experience between countries, on strategies to increase resilience of forests to climate change, promote the preparation of guidance for regions/forest types.
Wood energy: use existing forums to discuss strategic options for increasing the contribution of wood to renewable energy, identifying constraints, and developing precisely targeted policy instruments.

Biodiversity: forest sector organisations should communicate the EFSOS II analysis to regional and global organizations focused on biodiversity, and encourage the exchange of analysis and information between the two sectors.
Innovation in forest management: there is a need to share innovative ideas and approaches in forest management. An informal structure, centred on periodic forums and exchanges, could be initiated by an existing international organisation.

Competitiveness: review factors underlying results of the competitiveness analysis in EFSOS II, bringing together analysts and the private sector to identify what lessons can be learnt from this analysis, and whether there are implications for policy.
Knowledge base: international organisations should continue to work together to maintain and improve the knowledge infrastructure needed to carry out reliable analysis of the European forest sector and of the outlook for the sector.
Assessing sustainable forest management in Europe, now and in the future: the experimental approaches developed for SoEF 2011 and EFSOS II should be the subject of widespread consultation and review. Approaches, methods and data need to be defined and regularly implemented.

Outlook studies: review EFSOS II, with a view to improving methods and impact in future outlook studies. Communicate analysis to other regions and the global level, to improve consistency between the outlooks.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut