Innovations and investments urged to modernize Russian forest sector

FAO publishes Russian Forest Sector Outlook study until 2030

25 September 2012, Rome - The forest sector in the Russian Federation needs to be modernized using innovations and breakthrough technologies to maximize its potential as a global mitigator of climate change and an important source of timber, according to a new study presented today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of the Russian Federation.

Sprawling from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, Russia has more than a fifth of the world's forests, which makes it the largest forest country in the world. However, the considerable potential of Russian forests is underutilized and Russia's share of the global trade in forest products is less than four percent. Lack of governance, outdated equipment and underfinancing are among major factors that impede the development of the Russian forest sector, according to the report.

The Russian Forest Sector Outlook Study to 2030 urges immediate action on modernizing the Russian forest sector, increasing its investment attractiveness, stimulating domestic demand for forest products such as wooden housing and furniture, addressing the illegal logging issues and reforming forest public institutions and legislation.

"The study broadens our knowledge about the huge opportunities and possible development potential of the Russian Federation's forest sector," said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "Modernizing Russia's forests will have a positive impact on social, economic and environmental conditions in the Russian Federation and will contribute to the development of world forestry, forest industry, wood trade and the environment."

Increased investment required

According to the study, by 2030 the forest area in the Russian Federation will increase by almost 1.5 percent from 882 million hectares in 2010 to 895 million hectares, this is an annual increase of 660 000 hectares. This increase will occur mainly due to the artificial and natural reforestation of abandoned agricultural lands and as a result of forest expansion on non-forested lands and tundra.

The study estimates that if the investment flow in the forest sector increases by five times from its current level of approximately $2 billion to about $10 billion per year, roundwood production in the Russian Federation will double by 2030 from 143 million cubic metres in 2010 to over 300 million cubic metres. Under such favourable conditions, pulp and paper production should grow by 2030 from 7.7 million tonnes in 2010 to 25.5 million tonnes, the report says. Radical improvement in the investment climate in Russia would be necessary to achieve these goals.

Global focus on climate change impacts in Russia

Forests in the Russian Federation play a crucial role in  stabilizing the globe's climate. For example, the country provided more than 90 percent of the carbon sink of the world's boreal forests in 2000-2007. Estimates of the average carbon sink in Russian forests during the past 10 years are between 500 and 700 million tonnes per year.

There is a serious risk, however, that the carbon emissions from the permafrost lands of Russia are likely to exceed current emissions from tropical deforestation by several times, if global warming becomes a reality.

This is a problem of global concern, not yet recognized by the international community, the report said. It recommends further analysis of the problem of permafrost processes at the international level and its inclusion in the ongoing negotiation process on climate change.

Photo: FAO/Vasily Maksimov
The Russian forest sector urgently needs innovations and new technologies to maximize its vast potential, Kaybitsky forest, Tatarstan, Russia.