Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 16.03.2006

Government control measures to mitigate climate change would affect timber supply

Prevention of climate change necessitates various silvicultural control measures. The state could mitigate climate change by imposing carbon payments to favour longer rotation periods or by supporting silvicultural activities that enhance carbon sinks. However, affecting rotation periods may arouse controversy.

If forest owners were to extend rotation periods, cutting volumes and timber sales might be reduced on a short-term basis. On the other hand, a reduced timber supply reduces the contribution of forestry in substituting non-renewable carbon stocks. Professor Jussi Uusivuori from Metla believes that ways should be found to evaluate the net effect on carbon balances caused by reduced use of wood products due to reduced timber supply, on the one hand, and by increased forest inventories, on the other.

In the long run, it is possible that extending rotation periods will also increase the timber supply, allowing forestry contribution both as a carbon sink and as a replacement of non-renewable carbon stocks. This would give rise to a win-win situation, when forest carbon stocks could increase along with the timber volumes exchanged in the market. The long-term effect depends, among other factors, on the rotation periods to be applied in practice. If, to start with, the applied rotation periods are long enough, extending them could cause a reduced supply even in the long run.

The government supports harvesting and transportation of forest chips to enhance wood-based energy and heat production. Currently the support is focused on wood that is not utilized by the forest industry. The increase in demand for energy wood may also lead to a price level increase for by-products of the sawmill industry, i.e. bark, sawdust and chips, which would increase the profitability of the sawmill industry.

The research project Cost-effective and sustainable carbon sink policy is part of Metla’s research project “Pools and fluxes of carbon in Finnish forests and their socio-economic implications”.

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