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Forest Certification is Key to Ensuring Sustainability of Biomass

Nov 23 2012

IMG_1531_date121114_PflueglWoody biomass is becoming a major part of our renewable energy portfolio, with PEFC leading the discussion on necessary adaptions to strengthen the link between sustainable biomass and forest certification.  “We already know a lot about how to manage our forests sustainably,” remarked Uwe Fritsche, IINAS, during his opening keynote address, “but the rise of forest derived bioenergy brings about new issues and challenges not yet considered in existing voluntary forest initiatives.”

The keynote address hinted at some of the inherent complexities and tough choices facing society as we transition towards a green economy.  Forests provide a great renewable resource that can offer substitution for fossil fuels.  But added demand on forest resources presents both opportunities and challenges to ensuring their sustainable management. Wise substitutions of our energy sources must deliver real and significant greenhouse gas emissions savings, requiring careful calculation across different time and spatial scales.

The event, held in Vienna, Austria, on 14 November, attracted nearly 150 participants and successfully brought together diverse representatives from the bio-energy and forest sectors. The event provided a timely opportunity for participants to hear from European Commission (EC) and the UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change representatives on their renewable energy policies, targets and proposed criteria for sustainable solid biomass.

These new and proposed governmental regulations simultaneously stimulate demand for renewable energy sources (especially woody biomass) while potentially imposing new sets of requirements and safeguards on the land managers and upstream market actors. It is within this dynamic context of emerging regulations and sustainability requirements that forest sector and energy sector representatives were able to identify much common ground and potential for further collaboration.

“When it comes to achieving sustainable forest management, we must remember that it requires a holistic approach,” commented Ben Gunneberg during his presentation.  “The draft sustainability criteria for solid biomass that we’ve seen from the EC seem to imply that you can pick and choose particular criteria as though sustainable forest management standards are a shopping list”.

Participants agreed that we all must work much closer to share knowledge to better utilize existing certification systems like PEFC for their ability to guide holistic approaches to sustainable forest management. Meanwhile we need to better equip forest certification systems to deliver on the different needs and requirements of the energy sector.

Clearly if the utilization of forest biomass for climate friendly energy sources follows predicted trajectories, the unprecedented pressure on forest resources will require a multi-faceted, adaptive, collaborative approach to ensure net positive outcomes globally.  PEFC looks forward to continuing the dialogue and building workable solutions on this important and globally relevant issue.


Further information

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PEFC Certified

Forests area: 303 million ha
Forest owners: > 750,000
Companies (CoC): > 18,800

(as of June 2017)
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