What is carbon neutrality?
The Issue Brief: Biomass Carbon Neutrality provides a framework for understanding carbon neutrality. It distills and synthesizes the complexity of the debate and underlines the importance of carbon neutrality in public policy.
Using biomass-derived fuels and materials instead of more fossil fuel-intensive alternatives is one approach to mitigating increases in atmospheric CO2. However, the benefits of using biomass are under question, with the debate often centered on whether biomass is “carbon neutral”. There is no widely accepted definition for “carbon neutrality” and different people understand it to have different meanings.
The concept of carbon neutrality is important in public policy efforts to address climate change and potentially affects the forest-based industry. Depending on how carbon neutrality is understood and applied, policies may favor or disfavor the use and development of forest products and may affect traditional as well as emerging uses of forest products and biomass.
To help understand the debate, this issue brief explains the biomass carbon cycle, illustrates the benefits of using forest products and introduces the basics of carbon accounting. With this report, the WBCSD Forest Solutions group outlines a framework of how biomass carbon neutrality should be understood.
The Issue Brief: Biomass Carbon Neutrality aligns with the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which noted that over the long term sustainable forest management strategies that maintain or increase forest carbon stocks, while sustaining yield of timber, fiber or energy will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.
Developed by WBCSD Forest Solutions Group with extensive technical support from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), it supports the ongoing dialogue within the WBCSD membership and with other forest-focused stakeholders in government, civil society and business and it complements recent WBCSD Forest Solutions publications: Facts and Trends: Forests, forest products, carbon & energy and Carbon and Climate Change – Key Messages for Policy-Makers.