Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon and the wood industry

Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and our members bring this timber to market to be securely stored in buildings, whether in the structure, stairs, or floors, or in furniture or the thousands of other ways this miracle material is used.

 

Timber is carbon negative from cradle to gate. This means that all the way from the timber leaving the forest, where more trees are planted, throughout its transportation and installation onsite, there is less carbon dioxide emitted than what has been absorbed.

 

Carbon capture

Through the process of photosynthesis, trees absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide to create wood. Each cubic metre of wood grown holds just under a tonne of carbon dioxide ‘sequestered’ from the atmosphere. The total carbon emissions absorbed by forests around the world is around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

 

In 2016 EU forests provided a net sink of 424 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, around 10% of the EU’s total GHG emissions, demonstrating the potential of timber to mitigate carbon emissions. These forests are almost 100% certified sustainable, and with good forest management and governance should grow rather than shrink over the next decade.

 

Sustainable forest management and responsible sourcing are essential if trees are to meet their full potential as a form of carbon capture and storage, particularly in tropical forests which continue to be threatened by deforestation, primarily from the conversion of land to agricultural uses. Studies estimate that tropical forests absorb around 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

 

Research shows that in the long term managed forests will absorb more carbon than unmanaged forests. The UK timber industry has a leading role in encouraging sustainable forestry through responsible trade. partnership, and governance, both at home and broad. Our members at the TTF are subject to a mandatory responsible purchasing policy, along with third party auditing.

Carbon storage

Wood’s carbon performance relative to the key construction and manufacturing materials it can substitute has been extensively analysed. It is calculated that producing a tonne each of steel and aluminum generates 1.24 tonnes of and 9.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide respectively. By contrast, wood absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

 

Increasing the use of sustainable timber in construction has been recognized as a key method of reducing carbon emissions by the Climate Change Commission in the UK Housing: Fit for the future report, by the Royal Institute of Engineers and Royal Academy in the Greenhouse Gas Removal report, and internationally by the United Nations in the Emissions Gap – Report 2019.

 

Currently more than 50,000 homes in the UK are built using timber frame, but there is significant variation in the use of timber in the UK (83% of new housing starts in Scotland using timber frame, compared to 30.7% in Wales, 22.8% in England, and 17.4% in Northern Ireland). It is crucial the UK Government introduces policies to encourage greater use of sustainable materials in construction.

 

The Climate Change Commission estimates that if timber were used to build 270,000 new houses, this would increase the amount of carbon stores in UK homes to 3 Mt. This is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions which 636,943 vehicles will emit in a year. This was complemented by a UK study which found that using timber frames rather than masonry can reduce carbon embodied emissions by around 20% per building.