Monday, April 02, 2007

Britain Plans To Cut Emissions By Cutting Down Trees

Britain hopes to slash carbon emissions by burning more home-grown wood under a new government plan announced on Wednesday. The Forestry Commission's Woodfuel Strategy for England aims to make 2 million tonnes a year more wood available for fuel by 2020 through better forest management and support. Burning this much wood, equal to about 3.6 million barrels of oil a year, should avoid an estimated 400,000 tonnes of carbon annually, biodiversity minister Barry Gardiner said. "Using wood instead of fossil fuels means that sustainably managed woodland can be a significant resource for a low-carbon economy," Gardiner said in a statement.

Wood production in England will have to increase by 60 percent to achieve the target and current wood supply chains are not capable of getting that much material to market, the Forestry Commission said in its report. The carbon released into the atmosphere by burning wood is partially absorbed by growing more trees, which means lowering emissions from the energy sector compared to coal, gas or oil.

Rather than importing other biofuels, which can come from environmentally-questionable sources, Britain should use its own woodland areas in an environmentally sustainable way, the plan's backers say. The Forestry Commission, which manages more than a million hectares of UK woodland, says more investment is needed to get the woodfuel market working more efficiently.

The government has set a domestic target to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010 and 60 percent by 2050 and the biggest contribution biomass can make to that goal is through heat generation, the Commission said. Unlike some European countries where communal heating systems are widely used, making the switch to biomass fairly cheap and easy, British homes are nearly all heated individually with gas, coal or oil. This is a major obstacle to the growth of biomass heating and support from government is needed to ensure dirty fossil fuel boilers are replaced with wood-burning ones quickly enough to establish effective supply chains, the Commission said. Currently, biomass provides 3 percent of UK energy needs.

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