In progress from 24-09-2010 to 30-06-2011
Project manager: Jon Magnar Haugen
How can forest best contribute to a sustainable society? Should trees be sawn, boiled, burned or preserved? And how can society mobilize forests to the desired purpose? These questions are central to the Norwegian Board of Tecnology’s new project about future forestry.
Read more on the project homepage
The Board of Technology has established an expert group to deliberate over proper uses and management of Norwegian forest resources. The group will explore how to manage forests and utilize biomass.
Increasing interest and competition
The project is linked to new driving forces that affect forest use. On one hand, development of biotechnology and biorefineries opens new ways to use wood. At the same time, climate change causes increased interest in renewable materials and energy that forests can deliver.
The Norwegian government aims that the use of bioenergy will increase by 15 TWh by 2020. This is almost a doubling from current levels. The main contribution will be to increase wood provisions from 10 million to 15 million cubic meters annually.
Such an increase will be in competition with alternative ways of using land and raw materials. Increased removal rate could, for instance, come at an expense of the forest's value for recreation and biodiversity.
Green, greener, greenest
Even if one only takes global warming into account, there are tough dilemmas over whether trees serve us best if they are used or conserved. If we extract more energy and materials from forests, this allows us to reduce oil use. However, it will also reduce forests’ ability to capture and store CO2.
Each year, Norwegian forests capture more than 25 million tons of CO 2. This is about 50% of domestic GHG emissions, and over 25 times more than the planned capacity at industrial plants for CCS (carbon capture and storage). If we increase fellings, we will impair the forest CO2 uptake.
Accordingly, there is no such thing as a free lunch; even the use of forests raises opportunity cost. The final amount depends on how effectively we utilize the trees we harvest: Bioenergy is probably green, but there is something that is greener?
Traditionally, wood resources have found three industrial applications: lumber, pulp/paper and bioenergy. However, a number of other niches and applications exists. Norwegian Borregaard supplies wood-based chemicals, materials and biofuel, and is regarded as the world's most advanced biorefinery.
To some extent, these markets all compete over the same feedstock. Could political ambitions for instance for wood-based energy and fuel only be met at the expense of other markets, similar to what we have seen for agrifuels?
And may the potential for reduced terms-of-trade for instance for the paper industry only result in growth in plastics and other fossil resources? Another dilemma for the expert group to explore would be if feedstocks are supplied by unsustainable operations abroad, rather than by domestic sources.
Recommendations to Parliament
The group of experts will explore developments and trends that society should encourage or discourage. It will consult on how policy should be designed to protect important values and concerns.
The Board of Technology aims to present its recommendations to Parliament in early spring 2011.