Managing the forests and using the products they yield are important factors in efforts to tackle the problem of global warming.
The forests provide raw materials and bioenergy which, unlike those based on oil, do not add new quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Society is therefore increasingly turning its attention to the forests as part of the solution to the problem of climate change.
The trees captures and stores carbon dioxide
The combined volume of wood in the trees that grow in Holmen's forests is increasing. A significant portion of growth takes place in young forests that are not yet sufficiently mature for harvesting. A major factor in this increasing growth is the way in which Holmen has managed its forests over a long period of time. Today Holmen harvests around 85 per cent of the annual growth. The trees in the forest capture carbon dioxide and store it as carbon in their biomass. The combined stock of wood is steadily increasing. More wood, that is to say increased biomass, also allows us to make products capable of replacing those that have an adverse impact on climate. The quantity of bioenergy that can replace fossil-based energy sources is increasing to the same degree.
Wood - an excellent choice for the climate
The forests and forests products can be regarded as "carbon sinks", but this is only true subject to a proviso. The carbon stored in living forests and in forest products such as wood, paper and paperboard will sooner or later be released again as carbon dioxide. On the other hand carbon sinks can be said to exist if the use of wood-based products in society persistently increases. The difference between present-day levels and the new ones constitutes a carbon sink, because more carbon dioxide is constantly being bound in either trees or wood products. Forests play their most important role with regard to climate when wood is used as a substitute for materials and sources of energy that have a detrimental effect on climate. There is a dual effect. Greenhouse gas emissions from producing and using materials and sources of energy with a harmful climate impact are avoided. Used forest products make excellent biofuels, replacing fossil fuels.
Two "types" of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide – but there is good reason for making a distinction regarding its source:
- Biogenic carbon dioxide is released when biomass fuels and wood-based products are burnt. It is equivalent to the quantity that would have been released had the trees instead been left to rot in the forest. Biogenic carbon dioxide is already part of the carbon cycle in the atmosphere, and does not contribute to the greenhouse effect.
- Fossil carbon dioxide is released when oil and coal are burnt. It adds new quantities of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Both oil and coal have been stored in the Earth's crust for millions of years. It is fossil carbon dioxide that is the cause of the problem of climate change.