A natural part of our environment, wood is a renewable resource that provides wide-ranging benefits – from habitat, employment and recreational activities to carbon sequestration.
Tackling climate change with wood
Forests and wood products can effectively reduce the process of climate change in several ways.
Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the carbon so efficiently that about half the dry weight of a tree is carbon. This carbon remains locked up in the wood even when we use it for building products or furniture.
Using wood instead of other materials can be an advantage too. The production of wood products uses less energy (usually sourced from finite fossil fuels) compared with some other building materials.
As a fuel, sustainably grown and harvested wood (and other biomass) provides a renewable alternative to fossil fuels.
Wood and the greenhouse effect
The term “greenhouse effect” refers to the way trapped infrared radiation from the earth is warming the atmosphere. If you’ve walked into a real greenhouse, even on a cold sunny day, you’ll know it feels a lot warmer inside. This is where the name originated.
Solar radiation reaches the Earth through the atmosphere and warms the surface. The stored energy is then sent back to space as infrared radiation. However, as this has a different wavelength to the incoming radiation, less of it can penetrate the barrier of specific atmospheric gases known as greenhouse gases.
The most important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) but others include water vapour (H2O), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and sulphur hexaflouride (SF6).
Since the start of the industrial revolution, there has been a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, mainly due to CO2, from the burning of fossil fuels, but also from changes in land use. Many scientists agree that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 30% since the middle of the 19th century.
A sustainably managed resource
Australia's forest management is among the best in the world in terms of conservation reserves and codes of practice for production forests. Only 6% of Australia’s 147 million hectares of native forests is public forest potentially available for timber harvesting. Timber is harvested from about 1% of these public native forests each year.
Regional Forest Agreements – protecting our heritage
The conservation and sustainable management of Australia's native forests are covered by 20 year plans known as Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). Ten RFAs cover four States: Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales.
RFA’s are the result of years of scientific study, consultation and negotiation covering a wide range of interests.
You’ll find comprehensive information about RFA’s, including the processes that formed them, at the RFA website, co-hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts; http://www.daff.gov.au/rfa
Knowing the source of wood
Australia has two forestry certification schemes which enable users of wood and wooden products to know the source of the wood.
The Australian Forestry Standard (AFS)
The Australian Forestry Standard certifies extensive areas of native forests and plantations across Australia. It includes a Chain of Custody Standard to track forest and wood products throughout the supply chain. This provides consumers with assurance that the forest and wood products they are purchasing are from forests that are responsibly managed.
A world-class forestry standard, the AFS is is endorsed by the world’s biggest assessor of sustainable forest management, the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
For more information, please visit www.forestrystandard.org.au.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
This uses internationally agreed FSC Principles of Responsible Forest Management to enable FSC accredited certification bodies to issue a certificate for any forestry operation that meets their requirements. The system also includes Chain of Custody (COC) certification.
For more information, please visit www.fscaustralia.org.