By Rubina Obaid

Burning wood may become the major source of reaching carbon neutrality if the forests are also replenished in the same pace, as they are felled for fuel to overcome the increasing need of wood in various sectors.

Switching towards sustainable renewable energy sources from coal and oil-based fuels is considered to be more important than ever, to reach the world’s climate neutrality goals due to increased global warming. Along with implementing numerous alternatives one of the vital sources that cannot be overlooked, is burning woods for the sake of obtaining clean energy. According to the latest statistics shared by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global forest production hit the record levels in the year 2018 and got boosted by 11% in the last year. Increasing demand has been observed for almost all the wood-related products and the most apparent demand was of biofuel, as every country is determined to switch towards biofuel to replace fossil fuels. The idea behind burning wood becomes viable for carbon neutrality only when the forests from where woods are obtained also get replenished at the same rate. 

In 2017 environmental scientists wrote to the EU, for questioning the concern about the wood biomass to be treated as a renewable fuel. Whereas, the trade body of Swedish Forest Industries claims that country’s trees are now capturing and storing a net 48 million tons of CO2 a year as they grow, while other seven million are stored in long-lasting products made from Swedish wood, these in accumulation are sufficient to reach effective carbon neutrality goals. On contrary, Johan Bergh, head forestry department at Vaxjo’s Linnaeus University says that global forest resources are not sufficient to provide enough supply to various energy sectors and specifically transport industry with wood-derived bio-ethanol or biodiesel.  A lot of forests would be required to fulfill the need in the transport sector in order to replace fossil fuels. 

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Recently, Sodra along with Dutch Airline KLM  teamed up, for exploring the feasibility of producing Jet fuel using forest biomass and also working with Scandinavian airline SAS on plans for a pilot biofuel plant in North Sweden. Also, bioplastic packaging sector relies upon wood fibers that is currently making up only one percent of total plastic production, but it will grow over the years. Moreover, architecture firms are also chasing to use cross-laminated timber to replace carbon-intensive concrete and steel. According to United Nation Economic Commission for Europe and UN Food and Agriculture Organization study about the future supply and demand scenarios of wood market and shared their findings that, even if efforts are made to maximize global forest cover and increased use of wood in buildings, furniture, and another sector will substantially reduce the carbon sequestration globally. 

A study was conducted in 2010 by EUwood, led by the University of Hamburg that warned for the consequences of increased wood mobilization would struggle for domestic wood demand by 2020 to meet renewable energy goals. Hence, by the year 2018 EU was already supplementing its wood pellet consumption along with the imports of eight million tons and causing concerns for some conservationists member states, for the use of biomass is leading towards the scarcity of wood and deforestation. However, a Swedish heat and power plant, Vaxjo Energy became a 100 percent biomass facility in December and the chief executive ErikTellgren is not at all worried about the supply of wood, as the forest owners leave most of the branches and tops of trees are cut down to rot. The potential of at least twice the amount of residue streams, in the forest which is simply left there. 

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