New manifesto calls for greater use of wood to help prevent climate breakdown

To avert the worst effects of climate change, the global forest and timber industries are calling on politicians to urgently support the scaling up of the use of wood in a new manifesto.

The manifesto, ‘Growing our low-carbon future: Time for Timber’, sets out the case for how we can make greater use of wood to transform our built environment, which currently is responsible for approximately 40% of global energy related CO2 emissions.

Achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 requires construction to rapidly decarbonise whilst still meeting the needs of a growing urban population, the increasing demand for new buildings, and the urgent requirement to renovate existing buildings.

Wood is the only sustainable structural material which can enable a substantial decarbonisation of the built environment based on existing business models and proven technology; providing vast carbon sinks in our rural areas and carbon stores in our cities.

Wood is a naturally renewable material which:

  • Sequesters carbon in forests as trees grow.
  • Stores carbon in harvested wood products.
  • Substitutes for carbon intensive materials such as steel, concrete and plastics.
  • Drives Sustainable forest management leading to greater growth.
  • Contributes to a Circular economy as wood products can be reused, recycled and recovered 
for low-carbon energy at end-of-life.

The manifesto, which is available for download now, was launched at 12:00 BST on 28 October 2021 during the Royal Institute of British Architect’s Built Environment Summit to a global audience.

Speaking at the launch of Time for Timber, Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects said:

“Wood and wood-based materials offer solutions based on existing business models and proven technology. This is ‘carbon capture and storage’ in action now – with no further research or technological breakthroughs needed.

“Sequestration in the forest and storage in the wood is a win-win, as at the same time as we capture and store, we are also substituting for fossil fuel-based materials. And with multiple trees planted for every one which is harvested, it is sustainable.”

Paul Brannen, director of public affairs for CEI-Bois and EOS added:

“The primary purpose of the Time for Timber manifesto is to convey to those attending the COP26 in Glasgow that wood is the key material that can decarbonise the built environment both quickly and at scale.”

“We will now be taking this manifesto to Glasgow with our international partners, which include the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, to call on politicians to implement the recommendations and take action now.”

David Hopkins, chief executive of the Timber Trade Federation, said:

“As it stands the world is on track for catastrophic global heating. We need to rapidly decarbonise. Yet we find many of the promises from government reliant on unproven technologies to prop up existing, polluting industries – this cannot be acceptable.

“Going into COP26 the case for embracing the forest and timber industries has never been stronger or more urgent. Wood products can create better livelihoods for millions, and a built environment which works in harmony with nature.”

The five recommendations included in the report seek to rapidly scale up the global forestry and timber industries and enhance the ability of the supply chain to minimise CO2 emissions across the lifecycle of any wood product:

  1. Embed mandatory lifecycle assessments and embodied carbon thresholds within local and national building plans.
  2. Increase the use of wood within new build and renovation.
  3. Drive the growth of the bio-based circular economy through sustainable public procurement.
  4. Facilitate resource efficient use of wood and wood recycling, especially collection and sorting in municipalities, and develop measures to gain access to post-consumer wood, an invaluable secondary raw material resource.
  5. Increase training to upskill workers and create new jobs to boost the development of a sustainable and circular bioeconomy.