A new study has found that replacing fossil-based materials with wood products could avoid 3.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually in Ireland.

The research, commissioned by Coillte, was carried out by former director of climate, energy and Tenure at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Dr. Peter Holmgren.

It highlights the CO2 savings created by timber products from Irish forests and was based on a review of international studies.

The research examined the climate benefits of using Irish timber in construction, packaging and energy.

Wood products

Holmgren found that the current volume of Irish wood products has a ‘displacement effect’ of 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

This corresponds to about 6% of total annual Irish greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is the equivalent of taking almost 1.35 million cars off Irish roads.

Commenting on the report Mark McAuley, director of Forest Industries Ireland (FII), said:

“This new research provides an insight into the true benefits of forestry and forest products. Not alone are the forests we grow absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere but the products we produce from our forests have a major impact in displacing carbon intensive products across our economy.”

McAuley said that Ireland has under-valued the contribution that forestry can make to offsetting emissions and this must be fully evaluated as part of new policy.

“Productive forests and the products they produce make a triple contribution to climate change – forests absorb carbon as they grow; timber products lock away this carbon; and they also displace products that are emitting lots of CO2 in their manufacture,” he explained.

“Forests are a natural carbon capture and storage system that will benefit the whole world for generations to come. They are the most scalable of climate change solutions and one of the most cost-effective ways for the world to deal with its harmful emissions,” McAuley concluded.