Recommendations on Biomass Carbon Neutrality

Published: 30 Sep 2015
Type: Publication

Can wood & products derived from it be carbon neutral?

The WBCSD Forest Solutions Group (FSG) says ‘yes’ and explains why and how in its new Recommendations on Biomass Carbon Neutrality.

With these recommendations, the FSG provides a framework for understanding carbon neutrality, distills and synthesizes the complexity of the debate and outlines its significance for effective climate change policy.

The FSG defines carbon neutrality as a property of wood or other biomass harvested from forests where new growth completely offsets losses of carbon caused by harvesting. Wood produced from forests with stable carbon stocks can be used without causing long term accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. This means that forests, wood and products derived from it can be carbon neutral.

Using materials, products and fuels made from forest biomass instead of more fossil fuel-intensive alternatives is one key approach to mitigating increases in atmospheric CO2. Moreover, demand for forest products helps keep land in forests and can increase carbon stocks. Demand for wood and products derived from it help preserve forests, expand forested area and ultimately promotes sustainable forest management.

Why is this relevant to climate change? The concept of carbon neutrality is important in public policy efforts to address climate change and can affect the forest-based industry. Depending on how carbon neutrality is understood and applied, policies may favor or disfavor the management of forests, the use and development of forest products and biomass in traditional and emerging applications.

To help understand the debate, the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group, explains the biomass carbon cycle, illustrates the benefits of using forest products and introduces the basics of carbon accounting. It recommends a framework of how biomass carbon neutrality should be understood and applied in public policy.

These recommendations align with 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 the 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. It complements previous FSG publications: Facts and Trends: Forests, Forest Products, Carbon & Energy and Carbon and Climate Change – Key Messages for Policy-Makers.

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