Sustainable forest-based industries
Reconstructing our climate: Using wood as the building material to promote sustainable housing
©Delia Teschendorff Architecture/Dianna Snape28 September 2021, Rome – “The world is facing an environmental crisis and forests, and the products that they provide, are one of the most important tools available to address the climate and biodiversity crisis,” said the Director of FAO’s Forestry Division, Mette Løyche Wilkie, in her opening remarks.
Jointly organized by FAO and the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-based Industries (ACSFI), and in support of the Committee’s bioeconomy workstream, the webinar, entitled Reconstructing our climate: Using wood as the building material to promote sustainable housing, analysed the opportunities of using wood as a sustainable construction material to combat climate change and support the global transition towards a sustainable and circular bioeconomy.
Eva Müller, Director General for Forests, Sustainability and Renewable Resources at the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture, underlined that: “The world cannot wait until we are able to produce cement or other non-renewable construction materials in a climate-neutral way. Wood as a renewable construction material can help us to achieve the double objective of climate protection and resource conservation.”
Participants agreed on the importance of promoting the use of sustainably sourced wood, as future demand in construction materials is expected to increase due to urbanization and the expansion of cities, especially in Africa and Asia.
The webinar continued with the highlights from the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-based Industries, Ross Hampton, who emphasized the critical role of the industries in providing the renewable wood-based products that the world needs to decarbonize the building sector. “To meet the world’s ambitious and urgent environmental goals, we will need to turbo-charge policy change that recognizes the benefits of timber and fibre products,” said Ross.
At the heart of the session, participants heard a keynote speech from Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who outlined the opportunities that timber provides as a natural building material that stores carbon and how it can contribute to climate change mitigation while also delivering human health benefits. “The built environment is the elephant in the climate room, as it’s responsible for 40% of global GHG emissions and 50% of developed countries' waste. I am very optimistic that timber construction will take off globally in the next two decades,” said Professor Schellnhuber.
His keynote speech sparked a dynamic discussion with participants focused on what governments and FAO should do to further enhance the use of wood as a sustainable construction material while also making a tangible contribution to multiple SDGs. Some of the actions that were identified include a clear narrative on the role of wood in society, the removal of regulatory and other obstacles, and the implementation of incentives. This represents an opportunity for FAO, governments, and the forest sector, to work together to ensure that the benefits that wood provides are realized.