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Forests and forestry mean a lot to Sweden’s society and economy. The forest industry cycle also contributes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, for the sake of the climate.

The forest industry enables us to build wooden houses, decorate these houses with wooden furniture and buy milk in cartons produced from wood pulp. All these products contribute to great societal benefit and facilitate everyday life. In addition, they often replace products made from less climate-friendly materials.

37% of Sweden’s energy use comes from bioenergy

A key to Sweden’s low emissions compared to many other countries is that more than a third of our total energy use consists of bioenergy. A large proportion of Swedish homes and commercial premises are heated by bioenergy, unlike in Germany and the Netherlands, for example, where natural gas is used.

The bioenergy used in Sweden in large part come from forestry waste, wood and pulp industry waste, as well as used fibre and recycled wood.

The forest provides large positive climate effects

Every year, the Swedish forest contributes to major positive climate effects:

  • Growing forests yearly absorb 48 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the carbon sink.
  • 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are stored each year in long-term wood products.
  • 42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are saved through the substitution effect when products made of less climate-friendly materials are replaced.

By adding these numbers together, and subtracting the 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted in the Swedish forest industry, the net effect is 93 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year that would otherwise have ended up in the atmosphere in one way or another. This can be compared to Sweden’s total greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Just over 7 million hectares of Swedish forest is exempt from production. This corresponds to 26 per cent of all forest land in Sweden. There are different types of protection. Firstly, the formal protection in the form of national parks, nature reserves and other types of formal protection instruments. Secondly, the informal protection, which consists of the forest owners’ own voluntary protections of forest. It is often part of the certification systems for forest, PEFC and FSC. Finally, there is unproductive forest that has low growth, that nevertheless can have important natural values. All felling in such areas is prohibited by law. In total, it looks like this:

  • 8% of Swedish forest is formally protected
  • 12% is non-productive forest land
  • 2% is nature management areas
  • 4% is voluntary set-aside

Read more about the protection of Swedish forests.

The forest industry cycle

313,000 Swedes own forests

As many as 313,000 Swedes own forest, and about half of all forest in the country is owned by individuals. The fact that forest ownership is so widespread means that there is a great diversity in forestry, which also leads to greater variation in our forests.

Sweden exports forest products worth SEK 145 billion a year

Approximately 115,000 Swedes are employed by the forest industry in the long chain from planting to finished product. There is an entire ecosystem of subcontractors around the forestry industry, which is especially important in the parts of the country where forestry is greatest. The annual export value of forest products is approximately SEK 145 billion, or just under 14 billion euros.

380 million new tree plants are planted every year

But what effect does this have on the forest itself? The Swedish forest industry is built up in a cycle from planting to rejuvenation felling and finished products. As many as 380 million new tree plants are planted every year. This means that a felled tree is replaced with almost three new plants.

Sweden has more forest than in a very long time

The forest industry also saves the equivalent of 1 in 5 trees during felling, which means that the Swedish forest continues to grow larger. Today it is about twice as big as it was in the first half of the 20th century. Despite this, the forest industry’s production and use of bioenergy is greater than ever. Well-managed forests both grow faster and absorb more carbon dioxide.

This is the cycle of the Swedish forest industry.