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COP26: How can we ensure that wood gets a seat at the table?

Wood for Good's Campaign Manager, Sarah Virgo, writes about the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow and how she believes the industry can get the coverage it deserves by working together. 

COP26 is merely days away. Suddenly, it feels like the only thing that anyone is talking about! This year, there is a themed built environment and cities day during the Conference. It presents a huge opportunity for the sector to push sustainable production forestry and wood products as a solution to lowering emissions. The question is, how are we going to ensure that wood gets a seat at the table when it comes to discussing solutions for climate change?

Being based in Glasgow myself, I’ve noticed the city centre changing over the past weeks: the bus stops and lamppost banners changing over to the blue and green themed COP26 branding; the clean-ups and painting over of graffiti; the new visitors trickling into the city. I’ve also noticed the amount of media coverage and content being thrust our way, every sector – quite rightly – is fighting for their moment in the spotlight at COP26. There is a lot of noise.

So how can we ensure that we cut through that noise? I believe the answer rests in collaboration.

Wood on the map at COP26

There are a myriad of fantastic projects, events, exhibitions and structures on display in the Glasgow area during the COP26. There are timber houses showcasing what can be done with timber in construction; talks from architects and forestry professionals explaining how wood captures and stores carbon; virtual timber buildings from across the globe demonstrating mass timber potential; conversations about sustainable procurement and managing forests.

We wanted to provide one space for our audiences, to signpost them to all of these different places where wood is being discussed. We also want to show people how the forestry and timber industry has ‘shown up’ (both figuratively and physically!) for COP26, to celebrate the hard work of those within our industry dedicated to ensuring wood is part of the conversation.

As a result, we’ve been working with a variety of partners to create a singular webpage on the Wood for Good website about COP26. We’ve included an interactive map featuring all of the structures, hubs, exhibitions and some existing timber-based buildings in Glasgow during the Conference - we hope it becomes a helpful guide for those who will be visiting the city. We've also included some of the talks and displays featuring in the Blue and Green Zone - whilst not all will be able to attend these areas, it illustrates where the sector's presence is being felt during the Conference.

A global manifesto for wood

Wood for Good has been working in collaboration with a global alliance of timber bodies and organisations, led by CEI-Bois, on an international wood manifesto that makes the case to politicians for greater use of wood in construction.

Launched at the RIBA Built Environment Summit on the 28th of October, the manifesto, named ‘Time for Timber’ outlines five key policy recommendations:

  1. Embed mandatory lifecycle assessments and embodied carbon thresholds within local and national building plans
  2. Increase the use of wood within new build and renovation
  3. Drive the growth of the bio-based circular economy through sustainable public procurement
  4. Facilitate resource-efficient use of wood and wood recycling, especially collection and sorting in municipalities, and develop measures to gain access to post-consumer wood, an invaluable secondary raw material resource
  5. Increase training to upskill workers and create new jobs

The document calls on policymakers to recognise the significance of their sustainable timber and forest industries as part of the solution to a more climate-resilient economy.

The manifesto brought together organisations from across the UK and EU, Canada, the US and Australia to discuss how we can encourage real change through policy. The group will continue to work together and meet regularly, strengthening the global alliance. 

Read the manifesto on the World of Wood website.

What can you do?

Whether you’re attending in person or catching up online, you can take a look at all the different events and exhibitions from a range of stakeholders on the website. Learn from them, share them, comment and engage with them. If you know others who may be interested in learning more about timber in construction, encourage them to attend one or more of these events.

Throughout the next two weeks, I plan to attend as many different exhibitions and events as possible, meeting familiar and new faces, and talking about the role forestry and timber in construction can play in mitigating climate change. If you are in Glasgow and would like to meet up for a coffee, please do get in touch.

 But most importantly, we can all continue to talk about wood – beyond COP26, once the noise has died down. We can continue to talk about its low-carbon qualities, its circular potential, its biophilic properties. If you’re interested in being part of the collaborative campaigning efforts of Wood for Good in 2022 – please get in touch. 

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