We need to accelerate the transition from the existing global fossil and wasteful economy towards a renewable economy: a circular bioeconomy. If we are serious about mitigating climate change, we must find new ways to replace fossil and non-renewable raw materials, energy and products like concrete, steel, plastics or synthetic textiles with sustainable, renewable materials.
Wood is, in fact, the most versatile renewable material on earth and, from a sustainability and circular economy perspective, has a comparative advantage relative to other materials. Furthermore, forests, sustainable forest management and forest-based solutions can advance the bioeconomy while enhancing biodiversity and supporting wealth creation in rural and urban areas.
A timely new report from the European Forest Institute assesses how much wood we are likely to have now and in the future to support such a transformational change, and explores the vast potential and implications for its uses.
The report considers the structural changes affecting the use of wood globally and the potential for innovation in forest-based product markets, from engineered wood products in the construction sector, pulp used for textiles, chemicals, bioplastics and energy, to the growing number of small niche markets, including cosmetics, food additives and pharmaceuticals. It explores the future demand for roundwood under business-as-usual scenarios and when contemplating trends which curb the use of wood while foreseeing increased demand for other forest bioproducts.
Finally, it describes the need for investment in research to synthesise current knowledge and assess future environmental, economic, social and policy prospects, which will support a truly sustainable development of the circular bioeconomy.
Hetemäki, L., Palahí, M. and Nasi, R. 2020. Seeing the wood in the forests. Knowledge to Action 1, European Forest Institute. https://doi.org/10.36333/k2a01
The publication has received funding from the FORBIO project which is part of the Strategic Research Programme on Climate- Neutral and Resource-Scarce Finland (PIHI 2015-2020) funded by the Academy of Finland.