Carbon dioxide is captured in the growing forests and in the products. Holmen's resource-efficient production is predominantly driven by renewable energy. Investments in self-generated energy and the development of products based on forest raw material mean the positive climate effects will be even greater in the future.
The volume of standing timber in Holmen's forests increases by 1 per cent a year, which means that carbon dioxide is bound into its increase in volume. Based on Sweden's official reports of greenhouse gases for forest and land between 1990 and 2019, uptake for Holmen's forests and forest land on average is estimated at 1 270 000 tonnes per year. Over the foreseeable period, annual growth in Holmen's forests is expected to exceed the harvests, and the Group's forest growth target shows that carbon dioxide storage will increase in the future.
The production units
In recent years, the production of renewable electricity and thermal energy has increased considerably through Holmen's investments in biofuel-based energy production at several mills. In the past ten years, emissions of fossil carbon dioxide from the mills have fallen by 87 per cent and amounted to 70 000 tonnes in 2019.
Annual emissions of fossil carbon dioxide from forest machinery, manufacture of input goods and transport of raw materials and products are estimated at approximately 325 000 tonnes. Emissions represent the negative climate impact of Holmen's operations.
The products and substitution effects
Wood products store carbon dioxide throughout their lifetime and this is only released when the products are incinerated. Holmen's production of wood products in 2019 is equivalent to approximately 725 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide stored in products with a lifetime of more than 50 years.
Holmen's wood products that are sold as joinery and construction timber also contribute a substitution effect when used to replace climate-negative construction materials. The substitution effect for 2019 is estimated to amount to approximately 1 060 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Residual volumes from the sawmills are used in wood packaging, which also has a long lifetime. The substitution effect for these products has not been calculated.
Paper and paperboard products can also replace fossil-based products but as they have a relatively short lifetime. It is not meaningful to calculate their uptake of carbon dioxide. Once the fibres in paper and paperboard have been recycled several times as recovered fibre, however, they, like the end-of-life wood products, make excellent biofuels.
Biofuels from Holmen's forests and by-products from production, such as bark, provide renewable energy from incineration. Here too, it would be possible to calculate a substitution effect as fossil fuels are replaced by biofuel, but no such calculation has been carried out for this combination.
Under the parameters set, calculations show that Holmen's business brings substantial climate benefits, as it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 2,7 million tonnes per year.
Several independent sources show the positive climate impact of forestry and forest products.The summary is based on internal data and calculations and on scientific articles published in recent years.
On the basis of this reference material, data has been obtained to calculate the substitution effect. The data sources we have used are published in our annual report.
Forests, products and work on climate change
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.
Carbon dioxide vs. 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. Holmen's operations mean that a black carbon atom can be replaced with a green one.
The forests ability to absorb carbon dioxide
The ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide is related to a number of factors: the age of the trees, how the forests are managed, the local climate, the nutrient content of the soil and the level of precipitation.
The forests in southern Sweden absorb more carbon dioxide in a shorter time than the forests in the northern parts of the country. Conversely, more carbon dioxide is released from forest land in southern Sweden than in northern Sweden. This is because the rate of decomposition is faster in the south owing to the higher annual mean temperature.
Seedling and young stands (1 to 20 years old) - forest land releases carbon dioxide after harvesting due to increased penetration of sunlight, which speeds up the rotting process in the soil layer. The trees are still too small to make up for the release of carbon dioxide.
Younger and middle-aged stands - the trees grow fastest during this period and absorb far more carbon dioxide than the soil releases.
Older forests (80 years and older) - the trees' growth and ability to absorb carbon dioxide decline as they become older. At the same time the forces of decomposition start to act. Branches fall to the ground and some trees die, which increases the release of carbon dioxide.
Why a managed forest is better for the climate than an unmanaged one
In a managed forest that is planted, cleaned, thinned and harvested at regular intervals over 300 years, a stock of wood is built up over a period of 70 years which is then mostly harvested. Wood and biofuel are used to replace other materials and sources of energy with an impact on the climate.
In an unmanaged forest that is allowed to develop freely over 300 years the stock of wood is built up once – and then changes insignificantly over time. The trees act as a carbon sink, but in the unmanaged forest the substitution effect goes completely unused.
Climate risk analyzes in our forestry
The Heureka system (developed at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) is used to conduct climate risk analyzes on our entire forest holdings. It performs short and long term projections of timber, economy, environmental conservation, recreation and carbon sequestration. It provides several climate parameters and scenarios in which Sweden's forests are utilized and managed in different ways. We use the result to foresee forest growth in 100 years, (5-year periods).
Increased growth is to be expected, as well as negative impact from storms, fire, floods. Our business strategy is therefore based on the expectation that we will have moderate growth in our forests and our business target is “the volume of standing timber and harvests in Holmen’s forests will increase over time”.
We adapt our forestry and plan our harvesting based on the result to constantly ensure that Holmen’s forests grow more than the amount we harvest each year. The survival rate of forest seedlings and the need for supplementary planting is monitored 1 and 5 years after the reforestation of a clear-felled site is completed. Annual internal and external environmental audits. Also the competence among the contractors is considered to avoid mistakes.
Risk assessment for wood supply is conducted in accordance with the certifications of FSC Chain of Custody/Controlled Wood and PEFC Chain of Custody. Holmen has applied clear guidelines for purchases of wood since 1998.
How we grow a sustainable future
As a Swedish forest company with a climate-smart and responsible business, we are a positive force for our customers and society.Not least from a climate perspective.
Read more about how we contribute to a sustainable world.