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Mitigation through our woodlands

"Mitigation involves all actions that help reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases or otherwise stabilise their concentration in the atmosphere. These actions include maintaining and enhancing long-term carbon stocks in trees, woodlands and forests and the use of woodfuel from sustainably managed forests as a substitute for fossil fuels. They represent additional management objectives for forestry and includes the need to review those forest practices that may detract from the carbon storage by forests." (Section 3 of the Read report)

Section 3 'Mitigation' provides comprehensive advice through three chapters:

  • Chapter 6 - Mitigation potential of sustainably managed forests

  • Chapter 7 -  Potential of forest products and substitution for forest fuels to contribute to mitigation

  • Chapter 8  - The potential of UK forestry to contribute to governments emissions reduction commitments

Mitigation potential of sustainably managed forests.

Forest soils and can contain more carbon than that retained within the tree woody-biomass, particularly in the case of peat-based soils common in the upland areas of England. The stability of the store is of primary importance to climate change mitigation.

Sustainable forest management can maintain the carbon store of a forest at a constant level while the trees continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transfer a proportion of the carbon into long term storage in forest products. The total carbon stored in the forest and its associated wood chain therefore increases over time under appropriate management systems.

Woodland creation provides highly cost-effective and achievable abatement of greenhouse gases emissions when compared with potential abatement options across other sectors. The committee on climate change considered that abatement costing less than £100 per tonne of CO2 was cost-effective. All the Woodland creation options evaluated within the Read report met this criterion including a range of broadleaf woodlands. The two most cost-effective options were conifer plantations and rapidly growing energy crops, but mixed woodlands managed for multiple objectives can also deliver abatement at less than £25 but on CO2.

Potential of forest products and substitution for forest fuels to contribute to mitigation

Wood products are unique. They come from a natural, renewable resource, which can be sustainable if managed properly. The carbon they contain remains stored for the duration of the products lifetime, until it decays or is burned. The longer the product is used, the longer period of time the carbon is stored. Every cubic metre of wood that is used as a substitute for other building materials saves around 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Wood used for energy is woodfuel. When used in place of fossil fuels, woodfuel reduces net amount of carbon dioxide released in. There is the potential for expansion woodfuel used in the UK, but it is essential that forests that supply would managed sustainably. Although burning wood releases carbon dioxide, this is balanced by the carbon dioxide absorbed by the growth of new trees planted in place of those cut down. It is carbon lean rather carbon neutral fuel, as small amounts of fossil fuel are required for its production and transportation.

Wood and Timber Properties (GB)

Woodfuel and short rotation forestry. FR web pages

The potential of UK forestry to contribute to governments emissions reduction commitments

Significant opportunities exist for the forestry sector in the UK to deliver greenhouse gas emissions abatement from woodlands planted since 1990, potentially amounting to 15 MtCO2 per year by the 2050s and equivalent to 10% of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions if current emissions reduction targets are achieved. The abatement that could be delivered is highly sensitive to the level and timing of woodland creation. Within forestry, woodland creation is the most affective approach to greenhouse gas abatement in the medium to long term, but can deliver relatively little in the UK government's first three carbon budgets (to 2022). However by 2050, a 25,000 ha per year program of woodland creation between now and 2025 could deliver 130 MtCO2 abatement through sequestration in growing biomass, all total abatement (including fossil fuel and product substitution) of 200 MtCO2.


Timber in construction in Wales - timber frame construction in housing development at TregynonFeeding woodchips into the hopper a wood burning boiler.