From the TUC

Timber! Forests sale threat to CO2

19 Jan 2011, by in Environment

 Plans from the “greenest government ever” to privatise England’s forests  challenge not just the livelihood of some 3,300 employees of the Forestry Commission, but the sustainable management of our forest heritage. As “carbon sinks”, forests absorb and store CO2 in the atmosphere – 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year in the UK alone. There appears to have been no climate change impact assessment of this proposal. Why not?

Unions at the Forestry Commission (Unite, PCS, Prospect and the GMB), representing its 3,240 employees in all grades, fundamentally oppose Government’s plans to break up and sell England’s forests. Communities living in and around England’s forests, from Nottingham to the Forest of Dean, are also angered by the threat to common rights and public access.

But there appears to have been no assessment by the Coalition of the threat to forests on the UK’s climate change strategy. A study for the Forestry Commission shows their vital role in tackling climate change. Forests remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.  UK forests, including soils, are both a large store of carbon (estimated at around 790 MtC) and a system removing CO2 from the atmosphere (about 15 MtCO2 per year in 2007).

“Sustainable forest management can maintain the carbon store of a forest at a constant level while the trees continue to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and transfer a proportion of the carbon into long-term storage in forest products.” 

Sustainable forest management, what the Forestry Commission does, is threatened by privatisation. Woodlands planted by the Commission since 1990, coupled to an enhanced woodland creation programme envisaged by the Commission for the next 40 years, could, by the 2050s, be delivering, on an annual basis, emissions abatement equivalent to 10% of total our greenhouse gas emissions. Such a programme would represent a 4% change in land cover and would bring UK forest area to 16% which would still be well below the European average. What woudl the future look like if the forests were broken up and sold?

Compared with, say, investing in new, low  carbon technologies, woodland creation provides highly cost-effective and achievable way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Committee on Climate Change considered that schemes cutting CO2 emissions by less than £100 per tonne of CO2 are cost-effective. Mixed woodlands managed sustainably can deliver CO2 abatement at between near- zero marginal cost to a maximum of £25 per tonne of CO2 –  a lower costs than fossil fuel or nuclear power stations. 

These assets must be managed wisely.  Forests are “green workplaces”. They have a key role to play in the fight against climate change. “Private forest owners will require financial incentives to manage land for carbon sequestration”, the study argues. But trees and woodlands across the UK contribute to a wide range of policy objectives – recreation, biodiversity protection. Woodlands need to be planned so that these objectives are achieved together with absorbing and storing CO2. 

As Jim Pratt blogged recently, the Forestry Commission’s post war plan “revealed the dismal failings of the private woodland owners to re-stock, and emphasised the need for a single, competent Forest Authority.”

3 Responses to Timber! Forests sale threat to CO2

  1. Forest Sales Threat to CO2 « Save Our Forests
    Jan 19th 2011, 9:58 pm

    […] 2011 by saveourforests Leave a Comment Post from the Touch Stone blog (extracts below, full post here): As “carbon sinks”, forests absorb and store CO2 in the atmosphere – 15 million tonnes of […]

  2. timber sales
    Jan 23rd 2011, 10:16 pm

    I think Private people are not the best choice to hand over Forests. they are our national treasures and we have to protect them for out feature. what ever Philip explained is absolutely correct.

  3. steven burak
    Feb 17th 2011, 3:06 pm

    I totally agree with Jim Pratt’s thinking that the need remains ‘for a single, competent forest authority’. I will explain why.

    Multiplicity rather than a ‘single’ body controlling all, could only mean ‘competition’ rather than ‘co-operation’.Of course we’ve become used to and encouraged to take on ideas such as ‘benevolent capitalism’, however, where, anywhere in the world or anywhere in human history, has there been any solid evidence whatsoever that such a concept has ever become a reality, and, furthermore, is it at all possible to combine ideas of ‘capitalism’ with those of ‘benevolence’? I would argue that the answer is an affirmative ‘no’ to the two questions posed by the previous sentence.
    I ask anyone out there to ‘try’ to give me an example of ‘benevolent capitalism’, and i feel very self-assured that i will be able to dismantle the proposition. The very reason that i feel so confident that i would be able to do so is that ideologically and conceptually i am hawkishly sure that ‘benevolence’ and ‘capitalism’ are, by virtue of their different ontological natures, incapable of being experiential bedfellows: simply because ‘benevolence’ does not by nature ‘divide’ and create a hierarchy, whereas ‘capitalism’ only serves to do quite the opposite.’Benevolence’ and ‘capitalism’ are like chalk and cheese, oil and water, ‘benevolent capitalism’ is an oxymoron in which the twain words that constitute the term shall never meet save in the realms of fallacy.
    If there are two bodies controlling the future of our forests, whatever argument were to be proffered, it can only be abundantly clear that the two organisations concerned would not be working to represent the same interest or interests: whatever anyone might argue to the contrary, there would be an inherent friction between the two bodies.The nature of this friction could be very readily summed-up with the word ‘competition’.’Benevolence’ serves to ‘unite’, ‘competition’ serves to ‘divide’.
    We cannot ‘divide’ the trees from the other interconnected issues of ‘climate change’, economics, and all the other issues that make up our world and the lives of all the people and all the creatures and all the life that lie within it.
    ‘ Privatisation’ in its present form could never mean that every human being would have their own tree which they might be able to share with everyone else. Of course, such an idea could only be nought but preposterous under the present system or systems that the human being has tried to utilise to pervade our world.’Privatisation’ means and has always meant that ‘it’s mine,not yours!’ Then, the corollary of this modus operandi can only be ‘profiteering’. No one would be comfortable with the idiom ‘benevolent profiteering’, yet, this would be the truth of the great lie or misconception that would be attempted to be foisted wittingly or unwittingly upon us.
    In all humility, i wonder whether the question may be whether they are and would be ‘witting’ or ‘unwitting’ accomplices after the avalanche of precipitous social damage that would most probably follow? To use the term, ‘most probably’, might appear odd, considering perhaps ‘probability’ cannot be extenuated to an extreme where it then becomes ‘certainty’. Yet, as night becomes day and day becomes night though we may never know the future for sure, if you are able to see that oil and water are incongruous bedfellows you can then deduce that their potential union can only be a dream, or, rather, a nightmare. However, if one does not have the faculty of sight then their be an innocent ignorance of the inability of the two constituents to become one. Yet, how many blind eyes are turned in the interest and interests of party politics? Can anyone honestly tell me that party politics has ever been scrupulously clean? If so, only an ignoramus would surely conclude that they would be anything but deluded.