Climate blog

The value of timber by Keith Fryer

Published by Sam Page on 15 May 2013


These are Keith Fryer's notes from Green Drinks, 14th May 2013

  • In broad terms, only 10% of World’s Forest Is Certified
  • PEFC is by far and away the largest Certifier
  • FSC is very significant, but more tropically centred
  • In mainland Europe, PEFC is far better known
  • FSC tends to be NGO ‘Centric’
  • PEFC is far more industrial ‘Centric’
  • There is almost open hostility towards PEFC from many NGO’s who support FSC
  • This squabbling saps energy as we should be concentrating on the other 90%!
  • Both FSC & PEFC are accepted as equals by the UK government  -  see the Timber Procurement website
  • All government procurement must have Chain of Custody (CoC) from a CPET approved scheme
  • The ONLY way to verify CoC is via the Certifiers websites, where you can check online
  • All timber supplied has to be declared on delivery notes and invoices  -  that’s the ‘Chain’.
  • This level of Chain proves ‘Legality’ & ‘Sustainability’
  • In general, all mainstream timber companies support the CPET model for timber, even if it is just to meet their CSR requirements!
  • There has been recent new EU legislation, called EUTR, which sets out a legal requirement, whereby the entity that first places timber in the EU must be able to prove that it is ‘Legal’
  • While this sounds positive and is a good step, it might actually dilute the mainstream efforts, by focusing on Legality, instead of Legality + Sustainability.
  • Remember: Timber is the ONLY sustainable building material that we’ve got!
  • Timber absorbs Co2 as it grows and this is locked in when used as a building material
  • The energy required to convert timber into a useful product is incredibly low, especially compared to things like aluminium.
  • Recycling of timber is commonplace and effective in many areas (paper, newsprint, chipboard, MDF etc)
  • The British Isles are producing well over half of their total timber requirements, sustainably, creating jobs in rural areas.
  • Biofuels, agriculture (eg beef production) and local use are far greater issues on deforestation than EU imports.
BIOMASS  -  a Tricky Subject!
  • Cutting trees down in Canada, pelletising them, shipping them to the UK and then burning them (cofiring) to produce electricity, does not sound environmentally friendly!
  • Subsidies and the UK’s commitment to reducing Co2 output, have created a market that many feel is false
  • Many UK sawmills, chipboard/OSB/MDF plants are extremely concerned about the price power generators can pay, under long term contracts, for wood waste
  • Quite simply, as we demand more energy and lower emissions, something has to give.
  • Small, local CHP plants seem to make environmental sense, especially when linked to straw/willow and low grade waste as fuel.
  • One could say that wind power subsidies have been a model for this new breed of energy production?
  • Will biomass be found wanting in the medium term? 
  • Current large power station Biomass consumption in the UK is 3m tonnes – this will grow rapidly as Drax & others switch this year. 
  • The big concern is where will the material come from? If the UK wood waste is already ‘spoken for’, across a wide range of uses, what will this huge new entrant do to the market?