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Use wood for energy

Carbon dioxide (CO2) contributes to climate change, so anything that can be done to help reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere can help us to tackle climate change.

Burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil releases their stored carbon into the air as CO2. These resources took millions of years to create, but we are burning them up within a few centuries – and at a far faster rate than the global carbon cycle can cope with. In contrast burning wood is largely carbon neutral, with the CO2 absorbed as young trees grow compensating for that released by burning.

Sources of wood fuel

Wood fuel can be obtained from a wide range of forest products, such as early thinnings from commercial plantations, branches and residues from timber harvesting.

Short rotation forestry, where trees are grown, cut down and replanted over an eight to twenty year cycle, is another, sustainable, source.

Movie: Woodfuel


Climate change benefits

Trees planted for wood fuel can provide a never-ending supply of wood – as long as trees are replanted as they are felled, the whole process is renewable.

The carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning wood will be locked up again and stored by the new trees grown for the next crop. The only increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would come from transport and processing. It is among the most climate-friendly forms of power available to us.

Key facts:

  • burning fossil fuels releases CO2 that has been locked up for millions of years

  • wood fuel is carbon lean, rather than carbon neutral as some carbon dioxide emissions are produced during transport and processing

Key messages:

  • burning wood simply returns to the atmosphere the CO2 that was absorbed as the trees grew so there is no net release of CO2.

  • production of wood fuel is sustainable provided that the trees harvested for fuel are replaced with new ones.

  • using wood for heating reduces carbon emissions by 90-95 per cent compared to fossil fuel use.


Last updated: 11th August 2015