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Stakeholders Address Sustainability at Critical Moment in the Growth of Wood Energy Trade

Nov 01 2013

Pinchot 3Europe is expected to import up to 60 million tons of wood pellets annually in the next 20 years, most coming from the U.S. South. To address this growing trade in wood energy, over 60 experts and stakeholders representing conservation organizations, government agencies, universities, and the forest and renewable energy industries in nine different countries gathered in Savannah, Georgia, last week. The workshop examined the international trade in wood pellets between the U.S. and Europe and furthered the understanding of how forest fiber can be responsibly sourced. Organized by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and the International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Tasks 40 and 43, the workshop comes at a critical moment as European policy makers aim to design effective sustainability criteria.

The Savannah workshop explored the potential application of sustainability criteria being developed by European governments and industry within U.S. forests. Sponsors of the dialogue included the IEA Bioenergy Executive Committee and Tasks 40 and 43, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) through its 2013 Collaboration Fund, E.ON, Georgia Forestry Commission, Weyerhaeuser, MeadWestvaco Foundation, and Plum Creek.

Representatives of US pellet producers, European purchasers, U.S., Canadian, and European policymakers, and conservation organizations met over two days to analyze and debate complex sustainability issues. Participants toured industrial timberlands certified to SFI’s Forest Management standard, a non-industrial family forest, and the Georgia Biomass LLC pellet mill. The field tour showcased several tools to mitigate environmental risks along the biomass supply chain.

A summary report from the workshop will be available in early December and will identify opportunities for aligning U.S. forestry systems and European Union sustainability criteria. The project team will also use feedback gathered at the workshop to provide recommendations to SFI, which is currently undergoing a Standard revision process.

"Bringing European biomass consumers and U.S. biomass producers together has made it abundantly clear that there is a need to align sustainability criteria with the realities and complexities of North American forest management, and to that end, the sort of dialogue fostered by this event is essential," said Martin Junginger of Utrecht University and IEA Bioenergy Task 40.

“This dialogue focused on finding practical solutions for ensuring that the benefits of robust markets for forest biomass can further advance our nation’s conservation achievements,” said Al Sample, President of the Pinchot Institute. “The Pinchot Institute is committed to building understanding of the multiple perspectives on sustainable sourcing, sustainable forestry, and greenhouse gas balance.”

This dialogue was one of the six projects supported by the PEFC 2013 Collaboration Fund. The Collaboration Fund is a yearly competitive small grants program supporting efforts to advance sustainable forest management and forest certification around the world by members and partner organizations. The launch of the 2014 Collaboration Fund will be announced shortly, subscribe to the PEFC newsletter to keep up-to-date on all developments.

Further Information

Photo courtesy of Pinchot Institute for Conservation

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