Circular use of wood can accelerate global decarbonization

By Eilidh Forster, John Healey, Gary Newman & David Styles
Nature Communications
October 25, 2023
Category: Carbon, Climate & Bioenergy
Region: International

UK — Predominantly linear use of wood curtails the potential climate-change mitigation contribution of forestry value-chains. Using lifecycle assessment, we show that more cascading and especially circular uses of wood can provide immediate and sustained mitigation by reducing demand for virgin wood, which increases forest carbon sequestration and storage, and benefits from substitution for fossil-fuel derived products, reducing net greenhouse gas emissions. By United Kingdom example, the circular approach of recycling medium-density fibreboard delivers 75% more cumulative climate-change mitigation by 2050, compared with business-as-usual. Early mitigation achieved by circular and cascading wood use complements lagged mitigation achieved by afforestation; and in combination these measures could cumulatively mitigate 258.8 million tonnes CO2e by 2050. Despite the clear benefits of implementing circular economy principles, we identify many functional barriers impeding the structural reorganisation needed for such complex system change.

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