Wood for Good's Campaign Manager, Sarah Virgo, reflects on the challenges presented by 2020 and looks ahead to the new year.
2020 will be a year that sticks out in our minds for years to come. It has been characterised by feelings of loss, grief, frustration, and change but these challenges have also brought us resilience, gratitude, optimism, and innovation as we have adapted to new ways of living and working.
For the timber and forestry sector, COVID - and the lockdown restrictions it has brought with it - created unavoidable disruption, causing problems across the entire supply chain. These constraints in supply were amplified by a surge in demand for timber in the UK. Whilst forestry services were able to resume under the banner of ‘essential’ work during the first nationwide lockdown, many businesses still needed to shut temporarily and furlough workers.
The resilience shown by the industry has been resounding. In response to the mass shift to homeworking, a huge number of online webinars, events, CPDs and resources have been made available over this year. Trade and membership bodies have delivered vital, timely advice and guidance around COVID restrictions on business and work. Support came in the form of online information hubs, regular communication, webinars, advocacy, and representation.
At Wood for Good, we launched a new campaign, Wood CO2ts less, in July. Designed by the timber industry, for the timber industry, the campaign's positive messaging illustrates the real potential of forestry and wood products in helping us reduce emissions and fight climate change. Its success among the industry and in reaching new audiences was made possible through teamwork, working with our supporters to ensure the campaign represented the entire supply chain. Often we try to get rid of habits in the new year, but collaborative working, increased communication and a mutual understanding within the sector, are all qualities that I hope to see continue into 2021.
“The global COVID-19 lockdowns caused fossil carbon dioxide emissions to decline by an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020” Source
A worldwide halt on aviation travel and commuting resulted in huge CO2 emission reductions in the first half of 2020. As a result, there has never been a better time to engage policymakers, businesses, and the public in discussion around climate change and reducing CO2 emissions.
The timber industry needs to be a key topic in these discussions. Trees capture and store CO2 emissions as carbon, so when we harvest trees for timber products, we are creating products full of carbon, whilst continuing to plant more trees to capture more CO2. Wood products offer a safe, sustainable, and affordable low-carbon solution to CO2-intensive building materials such as concrete and steel. When it comes to discussing how we can lower our carbon footprint and reduce carbon emissions, trees and timber must be at the forefront of conversations.
The role of trees and increased planting has been recognised by the UK Government in its commitment to planting 30,000 hectares annually over the next 5 years, but there is little to no mention of the timber products that trees produce. The UK Committee on Climate Change has continually pointed out the carbon-saving benefits of using more timber in construction, but there is currently no policy to support these recommendations.With COP26 happening on UK soil in Glasgow next November, the spotlight has been firmly thrust on the UK to illustrate how we are combatting the climate crisis. We need to use the opportunity to demonstrate why tree-planting and increased use of wood products go hand-in-hand when it comes to reduce CO2 emissions and fighting climate change.
In 2021, Wood for Good will continue to champion the message of Wood CO2ts less alongside our supporters and partners. Our aim is to spread the message to a global audience. We want policymakers and leaders to recognise the value in forestry not just for its environmental, carbon-capturing advantages, its biodiversity benefits or natural beauty, but for its ability to produce a naturally renewable, carbon-storing, versatile product for use in design and construction.
If you’re interested in learning more about the role wood has to play in fighting climate change, visit our Wood CO2ts less page here.