Trees and wood products have a unique ability to store carbon. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees grow and take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They convert this into carbon and give off oxygen for us to breathe. When trees are harvested and used to make wood products, the carbon remains stored in the wood for the life of the product. 50% of the dry weight of wood is carbon.
It is much better to have the carbon stored in trees and in wood products on the surface of the Earth than in the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change. Building long lasting, efficient and durable homes and other wood products will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The carbon benefits of wood products can be dependent on the nature of the forest and logging method used. It is important to choose FSC certified wood to ensure the wood has been responsibly harvested. In well-managed forests and plantations (as recognised by FSC) new trees are planted to replace those harvested. Over time, this means more carbon is stored in the trees and wood products than is stored in an unharvested forest
It is now rare in Australia for a logged forest not to be replanted. The method of silviculture and the maintenance of ecological values and ecosystems services are much more important to good forest management than just the replanting of trees. Planet Ark supports a move towards best practice silviculture techniques that help ensure the highest level of biodiversity, carbon benefits and other ecosystem services.
The most effective way to work out how particular products can store carbon is to conduct a comprehensive life cycle assessment.
To put this in perspective wood has been one of the main building materials throughout human history.
Westminster Hall in London has been storing carbon since the time that Henry VIII was on the throne over 700 years ago. Similarly, Greenstead Church in southern England has locked up carbon for over 1000 years. On a smaller scale Egyptian wood chairs sequestered carbon 4000 years ago!
‘A lot of people somehow imagine trees grow from the ground, they don’t, they grow from the air, they are congealed carbon dioxide and all of that carbon is stored in them’
Professor Tim Flannery – 22 September 2008, Australian of the Year, Chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, Commissioner of the Climate Commission