This page details Planet Ark's positions on the use of responsibly sourced wood as a building material.
Planet Ark believes that trees play a critical role in our environment not only as one of our main producers of oxygen but as home to wildlife and a major source of global biodiversity. In addition, forests provide humans with beautiful, wild places to visit, enjoy and treasure that are diverse and unique all over the world. Maintaining our diverse ecosystems and forests internationally is now more important than ever, due to the growing threat of climate change.
Planet Ark believes that forests play a critical role in our environment in regulating the climate, providing habitat for wildlife, source of biodiversity and, for people, a connection to our natural world. As forests have been cleared and/or degraded around the world, Planet Ark believes that what remains of our high conservation forests must be protected and treasured. As such, Planet Ark opposes the logging of high conservation value forest for wood products and clearance for plantations, as this will have negative impacts on biodiversity.
While Planet Ark strongly believes our forests and biodiversity should be protected, it also believes trees are an important resource that, when managed responsibly, can and should play a vital role in our battle against climate change and other environmental impacts such as toxicity and resource intensity in production. More than any other material, responsibly sourced wood is a critical carbon sequestration source for homes and buildings as well as the many wood products we depend on in our daily lives - flooring, furniture, decking, etc. Planet Ark is working to promote systems that can ensure responsible management is in place as quickly as possible so that consumers and our environment can benefit. In places like northern Europe, well-managed forests and plantations that provide building materials and an excellent source for long-term carbon storage exist beside expansive and diverse protected forests, showing that such an approach can and should be our goal globally.
As we face the growing threat of climate change, however, we need to look to all options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including the use of responsibly sourced wood as a renewable resource that stores carbon. As forests grow they take carbon out of the atmosphere through the carbon cycle. When the wood is harvested and used to make wood products, the carbon remains locked in the wood for the life of the product. Some 50% of the dry weight of wood is carbon, which means that by using more responsibly sourced wood in our built environment over carbon intensive materials such as aluminium, steel or concrete, we can reduce carbon emissions and store carbon through this renewable resource.
According to research "substituting wood products from well managed forests and plantations for more greenhouse gas (GHG) intensive building products in cladding, wall, roof and floor framing could reduce the GHG emissions of a typical house by up to 18 tonnes over its life."
(Reference: An FWPA factsheet based on an RMIT study: Understanding the carbon footprint of material choice in Australian housing using lifecycle assessment.)
Planet Ark believes that certification is the best way to encourage good forest management and prevent illegal logging. It allows consumers to choose wood products that they know are from well-managed forests. There are two primary certification schemes in Australia - the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Australian Forest Standard (AFS).
FSC is currently the stronger scheme and Planet Ark recommends choosing FSC wood products over those with AFS or no certification at all for the best environmental outcomes.
AFS has a number of limitations and Planet Ark is committed to working to improve its requirements through the scheme's review process, now underway. All NGOs are encouraged to participate in these efforts to ensure that Australian consumers can purchase certified wood products in Australia with confidence.
The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an international certification scheme that provides endorsement of individual national forest certification schemes, such as the AFCS. Forest managers, processors and merchants certified under the AS 4707 (AFS Chain of Custody Standard) can use the PEFC logo in addition to the AFS.
Planet Ark recognises that globally areas of forests are not responsibly managed. However some forest managers and companies are managing forests and plantations to provide for environmental and social values as well as providing for wood products. This must be strongly encouraged and it will require concerted campaigning to demand good forest management and strong efforts to end illegal logging. Planet Ark is committed to working in these critical areas.
Planet Ark believes the use of high conservation value forests, and in fact any kind of diverse and high quality wood, for wood chipping is wasteful and unnecessary. The use of waste wood for wood chipping is, however, a practical use of this material that is often left unused. Planet Ark is strongly committed to finding ways to use recycled materials - still a vastly underutilised material source - as an alternative to using wood for low quality materials.
Planet Ark believes that growing demand for wood products that are sourced from well-managed forests and plantations, which also sequester carbon, can be met with the help of low-carbon market incentives, strong certification schemes and educated consumer demand. With these in place, we believe the demand for well-managed forests and plantations on marginal or cleared land will greatly increase. Returning this land to forests will have added climate change and environmental benefits if managed correctly.
Planet Ark believes that plantations are essential to meeting our need for forest and wood products but must be managed sustainably, preferably as FSC certified plantations. Converting high conservation value forests to plantations is unacceptable and unnecessary but converting marginal or cleared land to plantations or mixed source forests will have added climate change and environmental benefits if sustainably managed.
REDD, or "Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation", is part of the international Kyoto Protocol negotiations and a critical step in providing long-term conservation values on global forests. Around the world, deforestation represents 20 - 25 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed REDD system places a value on trees and forests to be maintained and managed as a way to reduce emissions (GHG) rather than cutting them down for wood. The system is intended to provide Carbon Credits for the offsetting of activities elsewhere with the additional benefit of conserving biodiversity and supporting local economies. Planet Ark believes this mechanism is important in preserving the world's forests, reducing GHG emissions and assisting developing communities to benefit from the preservation of local resources.
The Australian Government has proposed setting up a new market in pollution offsets - the ‘Carbon Farming Initiative' (CFI) - that would enable farmers, forest companies, Indigenous communities and conservation groups to set up land-use practices that cut pollution or sequester carbon. These projects would be supported through payment by polluting companies in Australia and internationally. ?Like REDD, Planet Ark broadly supports a CFI but believes more detail is needed to ensure it delivers real emissions reductions without negatively impacting the environment. CFI has the potential to be a great first step towards giving farmers and rural communities the opportunity to receive financial benefit for protecting existing forests and/or planting new forests that could have great climate change and biodiversity benefits.
Within a consistent, well-managed, sustainable forest approach, encouraging new tree planting, particularly on land previously cleared for farming or development rather than existing forests, can and should be used as part of carbon reduction schemes that offer benefits for those who invest in and carry out such initiatives. These schemes must, however, be well policed, ensure long-term health of such plantings and clearly define biodiversity parameters so that the best carbon reduction and environmental benefits can be achieved.
Planet Ark believes that wood can and should come from all sustainable sources to meet our materials needs as a preferred environmental and carbon-sequestration resource. With strongly enforced certification schemes in operation, both sources can and should be available with assurance that accredited wood is in fact coming from sustainably managed forests rather than threatened forest areas. However, Australia is in a good place to strengthen its sustainable wood management that would allow us to benefit both environmentally and economically for the potential growing demand for sustainable wood sourced here at home, reducing carbon miles from transport and ensuring the wood we are using is not illegally logged.
Planet Ark believes using wood as a primary source for energy generation is not realistic and that for a large-scale industry, wood for energy should not be used. Other forms of renewable energy will provide better long-term supply with much less environmental impact. However, the industry does produce a range of waste materials that have potential to provide a source for small-scale power generation and should be considered as an option for localised activities related to the wood industry.
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