A fossil-free EU
Forests are high on the EU’s agenda thanks to their importance for combating climate change, protecting biodiversity, and providing jobs, sustainable materials, and energy. Forestry and wood can assist in the green transition of the economy, to help us reach the goal of a resource-efficient, fossil-free Europe. The forest helps us with our climate challenges in two ways: by binding carbon, and through the substitution or displacement effect.
Forests and forest-based products help lower emissions
A substitution effect occurs when wood-based products replace products made from fossil raw materials. This means that fossil carbon is removed from the materials cycle and replaced with biogenic carbon. The total amount of carbon in circulation therefore stops increasing.
The total annual climate benefit of forests and forestry is 806 million tons of CO2e in Europe. That corresponds to 20 per cent of EU’s total fossil emissions. Looking ahead to 2030, the forest sector has the potential to contribute to the mitigation of carbon emissions to the equivalent of at least 30 per cent of EU fossil fuel emissions. And the carbon stock in European forests keep increasing. Between 1990 and 2020 it rose by 48 per cent.
The substitution effect plays a crucial role in reducing climate impact and is a key to achieving the EU’s climate targets. Products produced from forest raw material have significantly lower climate impact than fossil or non-renewable alternatives. The substitution effect amounts to 410 Mt CO2e/year.
The net sink, in other words the increased carbon storage, in European forests is -406 Mt CO2e/year, and in forest products -41 Mt CO2e/year – resulting in a total of -447 Mt CO2e/year.
After deducting the forest sector’s fossil emissions the combined positive climate effect of Europe’s forests is 806 Mt CO2e/year, or around 20 per cent of EU’s total fossil emissions.