– To be able to draw correct conclusions, we must see the greater picture. We need to compare scenarios that range from active to inactive forestry and as far as possible use data from reality, says Peter Holmgren, former head of FAO's global climate work and today advisor in sustainable development.
In the new report The Forest Carbon Debt Illusion, he has therefore analyzed how different levels of forestry in Sweden affect carbon flows and the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.
The conclusion is clear. The amount of carbon dioxide would increase in the atmosphere if forestry decreased – even in the short term.
– If we reduce the use of forests, the use of fossil-based materials increases and then the total emissions increase. A temporary increase in carbon storage in the forest is not able to compensate for this, says Peter Holmgren.
Magnus Berg, Head of Business Policies at the Swedish Forest Industries Federation, believes that the results are important for everyone who wants to change to a more sustainable society. He also highlights the need for further research.
– The report states clearly that the forest is a large and important part of the solution, both today and in the future. Peter Holmgren's analysis points to the need for more scientific studies of the forest sector's climate impact, where the entire value chain is considered, including consequences for society as a whole. Part of today's leading research treats the forest as an isolated island when it should instead be seen as an integral part of the renewable, bio-based economy, says Magnus Berg.
Holmen has long argued that the forest is most useful when it is sustainably managed and harvested.
Young, growing trees absorb more carbon dioxide than old ones. When wood products from the forest replace fossil alternatives such as steel and concrete, CO2 emissions are radically reduced.
– What’s best for the climate is to harvest as much as possible without reducing the carbon sink in the standing forest, and to replace fossil materials such as concrete, steel, plastics and fossil fuels with bio products, says Henrik Sjölund, CEO Holmen.
The full report is available on the Swedish Forest Industries' website.