The theme of the 2017 United Nations International Day of Forests (IDF) is Forests and Energy. Heralded annually, it shares the day with South Africa’s Human Rights Day. The International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) is proud to represent the global forest products industry, which plays an important role in contributing to the production of renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels by using wood manufacturing residuals, byproducts and forest residues – collectively known as biomass – to produce much of the energy required for its operations.
The South African sector is represented through the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA). Jane Molony, PAMSA executive director and ICFPA vice chair, says that the local pulp and paper sector is in some instances totally self-sufficient and has additional power to sell into the grid. “This energy, by virtue of the cogeneration process and biomass based lignin content in black liquor, uses less water and emits less CO2 than regular coal based power production. This is why PAMSA finds it particularly galling that the Department of Energy’s recently published draft Integrated Resource Plan for energy excludes cogeneration as a viable, green technology.”
According to the international carbon accounting principle, when combusted for energy, biomass does not contribute to global climate change as growing trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. The ICFPA reiterates the carbon neutrality of biomass in a policy statement: http://www.icfpa.org/uploads/Modules/Publications/icfpa-statement-on-biomass-carbon-neutrality.pdf.
“The forest-based industry also can substitute for a wide range of fossil fuel-based products on the market, hence providing additional climate benefits as well as welfare to society,” said ICFPA President Elizabeth de Carvalhaes.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, wood provides the world with roughly 40 percent of current global renewable energy supply – more than solar, hydroelectric or wind power. Sustainably-managed forests have a key role in meeting several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and providing solutions for a growing green economy.
To increase the role of forests in providing renewable energy and to reduce the use of fossil fuels, the forest-based industry invests in technological innovation and sustainably-managed forests to improve yields and practices. In the past ten years, the energy share of biomass and other renewable fuels has increased from 53 to 63 percent.
The ICFPA represents more than 30 national and regional forest and paper associations around the world. For more information about the sustainability of the global forest and paper industry, visit icfpa.org.