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WBA fact sheet: The carbon neutrality of biomass from forests




The use of forest biomass is carbon-neutral, because the carbon contained in wood originates from the atmosphere and it is released to the atmosphere bywood decay or by combustion. Before a tree can be burned it has to grow by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Theories on carbon debt and ‘paybacktime’ of biomass are not credible, because they are based on the unrealistic assumption that trees are first burned and then grown!It is a fundamental requirement of sustainable forestry that the carbon stock in forests remains stable or increases over time. Deforestation and unsustainableforest management lead to a decline of the carbon stock in the forest – this has to be avoided. The forests are part of the global carbon pool atmosphere -biospheres within which the carbon moves as part of the natural carbon cycle.The carbon released by burning fossil fuels is not part of the ‘natural’ carbon cycle. It rapidly increases the CO2 content of the atmosphere. In 2011 about 90%of total CO2 emissions were caused by burning fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels creates a carbon debt that will be a huge burden for future generations.Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has to be the core strategy with regards to future climate policies. Utilizing biomass from sustainably managedforests can play an important role in this strategy. Several countries have demonstrated that a build up of carbon in forests and an increase of forest biomassfor energy is simultaneously achievable by good forest management practice.Claims are being made, that trees should rather be left to grow to stock further CO2 and not be harvested. This is no solution however, because forests stopto grow as soon as trees are mature. It would also mean not to use the sustainable products from forests: timber, paper, energy and to replace them byfossil fuel based products.The WBA favors a global afforestation program to reach a net increase in the global forest area by 100 million ha by 2025, sustainable forest managementworldwide and more utilization of forest biomass instead of fossil fuels. To avoid a reduction of carbon sequestered in forests due to the growing demand forsolid biomass governments are urged to enforce a forest management policy in their countries based on the principle of sustainability. The WBA proposesto introduce sustainability criteria as developed by the WBA since 2009. Certification systems based on these criteria should be introduced for consumersor traders of large quantities of solid biomass.

Download the fact sheet