Speech, forest | Climate forests – sequestering carbon dioxide through photosynthesis

Speech, forest |  Climate forests – sequestering carbon dioxide through photosynthesis

Opinions This is a discussion post. The publication expresses the opinions of the writer.

Norway is obliged through the European Economic Area Agreement to contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, registered in several international agreements in Paris, Kyoto and more recently Glasgow. Under the slogan “Fit for 55”. Our emissions must be reduced by 55 percent compared to 1990 levels in 2030, which means 310 million tons less CO2 emissions. Norway's share of this is estimated at approximately. 25 million tons and will be reached through the so-called “Climate Remedy 2030”. The big goal is net zero in 2050.

In climate accounting, we have two tools. Connect more and release less. Forests as a means of connectivity do not receive much attention in Norway, but within the EU and EEA system, measures regarding forest contributions have been set out in documents adopted by the European Commission. (Compensation mechanism in managed forests Articles 13 and 13B. Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation No. 341 and Enhanced Protocol No. 31 to the EEA Agreement.)

Forests have a long tradition in Norway. We have used the forest for many different purposes over hundreds of years. As a result, this has affected forest management and operational strategies, coupled with the strong mechanization of the industry. The whole goal was to achieve efficient work flow towards the industrial sector through planting, dense stands and monocultures of trees with short rotation periods. Economic rationality in biological wood production has been a targeted strategy since the 1950s. A practice that was similar in almost all of Europe.

Climate challenges are now being raised as society's greatest challenge to humanity. As we are now certainly entering active times where climate is high on the agenda, it is entirely possible to use the forest for a new purpose: as a result, linking the carbon dioxide in the growing cubic mass to longer-lasting forest products.

This requires managing some forests differently. It must withstand ageing, have greater biodiversity, more leaves and mixed forests, and greater biodiversity. One cubic meter of growing timber ties/captures approx. 800 kg of carbon dioxide. If the entire tree is taken into account, with the upper branches and the root, the figure is 1.5 tons of associated carbon dioxide. In the EU Forest Strategy, an important document on the role forests play in combating climate change, carbon dioxide sequestration in forests should be assessed and used in a forest compensation scheme.

Through the EU Emissions Trading System, selected parts of the industry are compensated for reduced emissions by NOK 268 for 2021, and NOK 348 for 2022. The current price for 2023 is NOK 644 per tonne per year. We are talking about large quantities. If the forest receives compensation for sequestering carbon dioxide as the industry does for emitting less, this could represent a subsidy to the industry as well as supplying the industry with timber.

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The short summary of all this is that parts of the forests must be rearranged and managed. We must abandon old forms and find solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow, if we want forests to have credibility in the fight against climate change.

The European Union has understood this fact in its new forest strategy, and it really means it. Huge quantities are now being supplied. There is talk of carbon farming and providing environmental services in forests.

The financing will be partly through the Carbon Dioxide Levy Fund (CBAM) (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism). Products entering the EU market with a high CO2 footprint will be taxed and this money will be made available for measures that link CO2. The scheme will be phased in already this year and will be fully effective during 2026. At least that's the plan.

Other state-mandated financial solutions are on the way as well. The German state has allocated huge sums of money for this purpose only this year. Germany aspires to be in the driver's seat of transforming existing forests into an effective tool for achieving the climate goal. In this lies the recognition of the importance of the forest beyond the scope of supplying timber to industry.

Economic or biological harvest maturity age are related terms used. Today, it is mainly calculated when it is economically beneficial to cut timber and realize its value. The pivotal point here is usually at a very young age, as the economy (for the industry as well) is at the top. As a result, biology and the forest are lost as a carbon store.

Former professor at the University of Environment and Life Sciences in Ås, Kåre Hobbelstad, starting with the Øy Forest Estate, a 3,600-acre forest estate in Kviteseid municipality, has shown practical examples how society can make big gains for cheap money by increasing the age at which Harvesting and sequestering carbon in forests at the same time as increasing the value of timber. His conclusions are that the contribution of forest cover could almost quadruple and provide significant value to society at a cheap price, if one was willing to use offset mechanisms to sequester carbon.

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The forest compensation scheme does not depend on leaving the forest standing until it dies naturally, but rather on leaving it until it reaches biological harvest age. It will provide long lasting wood products to the community to a much greater extent. Depending on management, forestry and land type, it is entirely possible to double the lifespan of a forest, perhaps more, before it is cut down.

Researchers at the research institute NIBIO, Clarke, Nielsen and Hobbelstad already pointed out in 2007 that the highest level of carbon sequestration is achieved by extending the cycle period by 30 to 50 years, and for certain types of wood even longer.

Within the European Union, the major powers are now pitted against each other. The Swedish/Finnish pulp industry is not happy about using forests for different purposes than before. The changing perception of logging maturity age will impact the flow of labor/timber supplies and thus the economy and dividends in today's supply chain.

On the other hand, Norway has a great opportunity to use the forest for CO2 purposes. We have little wood processing industry left, employment in the forests means little, and we have a lot of difficult terrain. Hardly any forest owners make a living from timber sales, and if carbon capture and storage could be offset by photosynthesis in forests, this would be a cheap and important contribution to the fight against climate change. The forest owner will be better off financially, and this will help reduce conflict between the forest industry and environmental organizations.

The Norwegian authorities want to reduce Norwegian carbon dioxide emissions. Norway emits approx. 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. In addition, oil extraction, which is mainly exported abroad, leads to emissions of approximately 1.400 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Emissions from oil extraction itself amount to 12 million tons, or approximately. 3% of the total emissions caused by oil extraction.

One of the authorities' most prestigious projects is the electrification of Melkøya in order to reduce Norwegian emissions by one million tons of carbon dioxide. Analyzes by Åsmund Sunde Valseth of Vista Analyze (DN, Chronicle 17.08.23) show that the electrification of Melkøya has an uncertain impact on global CO2 emissions.

The OED estimates that the cost of CO2 abatement at Melkøya is NOK 1,700 per ton of CO2. 3.5 TWh of energy is required for this electricity. Let's say you don't have 3.5 TWh available, but you have to get that energy through new renewable energy sources which could be solar or wind. If you wanted to provide 3.5 TWh with solar energy, for example, you would actually have to fill all the arable land in the municipality of Over Eker with solar gardens (about 50,000 acres). On the other hand, if you cut down 50,000 acres of forest to build a solar park, that means the forest that was standing there isn't absorbing 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.

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The average income of forest owners in Norway from forestry in 2021 is NOK 62,000. Forest owners are left with only a “root network”, which is what forest owners are left with after deducting operating costs of NOK 440 per cubic meter in 2021, according to Statistics Norway. One cubic meter of wood including the root system and leaves binds 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide. The forest owner should therefore initially be interested in allowing the forest to account for NOK 300 per tonne of CO2. There is still a long way to go until the authorities pay NOK 1,700 per tonne for the Melkøya project. This effect could have been achieved at a much lower cost through photosynthesis in forests.

The Swedish and Finnish wood processing industries say they will capture carbon dioxide in plant pipes through the BECCS (Bio Energi Carbon Capture Storage) method. They have to achieve two things: legitimize the traditional use of forests for industrial purposes, and capture cash flows from the CBAM system.

The fact that the method is poorly developed, the result is questionable, and would require enormous amounts of energy to implement, is not talked about much. Therefore, there is no will to transfer the amount to practical forests where photosynthesis does this job every day.

“Climatic forestry” should be introduced as a term in Norway. It would be a cheap contribution to society in the fight against climate change. The environment will benefit and the forest owner can be paid for allowing the forest to stand and grow to sequester carbon dioxide and provide more long-life timber and products to the community.

Hopefully, forest owners will eventually become as interested in the price of CO2 as they are in the root network.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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