Energy and material substitution of wood products for climate change mitigation

A new publication shows the urgency of implementing policies to promote the use of wood in construction to harness the opportunity to curb climate change.

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Wooden frame house
Photo: Paul Brennan / Pixabay

The article “Climate mitigation by energy and material substitution of wood products has an expiry date” was recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. In this publication, the authors estimated the climate change mitigation effect for five scenarios of wood products use in Europe applying dynamic substitution factors embracing a future energy mix with an increasing share of renewables in accordance with the emission reductions necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement targets. Results show that the mitigation effect derived from material substitution is 33% lower in 2030 than previously predicted, and even 96% lower in 2100, showing its expiry date by the end of the century. Nevertheless, the mitigation effect of wood product use, in addition to mitigation by forests, may represent 3.3% of the European emission reduction targets by 2030.

This is an interesting analysis for Mediterranean countries where wood framed buildings are rare. The substitution effect as a consequence of the switch to wood framed buildings will become smaller the closer we get to the substitution expiry date, i.e. the date when a high percentage of renewable sources in the energy mix will be reached, estimated to occur around 2100. Policies to promote the use of wood in construction should be implemented with urgency to take advantage of the window of opportunity with strong substitution effect now that the share of renewable energy sources is still low.

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