Published by the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform FTP

The European Forest-based sector - Delivering Bio-value

The European forest-based sector includes three sub-sectors forming an unbreakable chain: forest-owners, wood-working industries and pulp and paper producers. The common element is their dependence on European forests that do not only deliver the renewable raw material wood for a wide range of products (paper, wood products, energy, specialty chemicals), but also guarantee biodiversity, eco-systems services, act as CO2 sinks, and supply non-wood products and recreation opportunities.

The sector employs some 3 million people. It is in full transformation, with sustainable practices, technology development, product innovation and high ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) use, while supporting the rural economy. The sector gathers several industries that, in many aspects, are significantly different from each other, while being part of the forest-based biomass value-chain. They compete in a global market, often © CEPI with regions and countries where forests have a much faster growing period and where production costs are much lower than in Europe.

In spite of that, the sector has remained globally competitive by focusing on its knowledge and competence base and developing technological innovations as well as integrations that take the sector forward. Investments in renewable energy have brought the desired results, and the sector is today the largest single producer and consumer of renewable bio-energy. In 2008, the share of biomass-based energy in the pulp and paper sector was 54.4% of total primary energy consumption.

Most of this energy is generated by efficiently using the by-products of processing wood and pulp. Combined Heat and Power installations deliver more than 30% efficiency gains compared to conventional installations. These investments have reduced CO2 emissions by 20% in the past decade.

For the forest-based sector it is important that there is sufficient biomass available for the production of materials and products as well as for generating renewable energy.

Wood is a strategic raw material. It comes from forests that are the lungs of the world. It is biomass, a concept that integrates many different resources. Wood has ahead of it many different markets, that are interdependent and competing, and that generate a variety of sub-products in many industrial sectors. Construction, furniture, pulp, paper, chemicals, additives, novel materials, bio-polymers, bio-energy, have a transversal identity - wood. Forest and wood-based products are the source of green carbon. They play a major role throughout their service-life in storing the carbon that was captured by forests, they have a low degree of embodied energy and are ideal substitutes for energy and carbon intensive materials also used for construction, packaging and other products.

The role of the sector in climate change mitigation is confirmed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. In its 4th Climate Assessment Report, published in 2007, the 2000 climate scientists in the panel clearly concluded that "a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit".