Fierce competition over global wood fibre supply set to take off

Note: The article below quotes the The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) estimating “that the yield and harvest from planted forests will need to increase threefold by 2050, with planted land-area increasing 60%.”

First of all, “planted forests” is an oxymoron.  Second, where exactly is all of this land going to come from? And how are they going to triple the output while only increasing the land base by 60%?  If industry has its way, this output increase will partly come from trees genetically engineered to grow more densely and more rapidly (they do not want us to think about what happens if these “frankentrees” escape into forests).  The extra land will come from regions currently forested (with real forests–not fake oxymoronic industrialized “planted forests”).   For example, industry has stated that they plan to double the acreage of timber plantations in the Southern US–home to some of the most biodiverse forests on the planet.

Or it will come from land being used by small-scale and Indigenous subsistence farmers–as is already happening in Chile and Mexico–driving people into desperate poverty.

The ecological impacts of a massively rising demand for wood are obviously extremely grave.  But the timber industry is determined to make trees the major substitute for fossil fuels in the manufacture of everything from liquid fuels to electricity, textiles, chemicals and plastics (most of which will also require application of synthetic biology or nanotechnology with potentially disastrous consequences).

And all of this will impact the climate too–and not in a good way.  Plantations store 1/4 the carbon of forests in tropical areas.  Clearcuts release huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

Here’s a better idea. How about we focus on demand reduction.  In case its not yet evident enough, we’re smack dab in the middle of an all-out ecological crisis stemming from an economic system based on never-ending growth on a finite planet.  This is a lose-lose scenario and one we must change.

–The GJEP Team

By Canada NewsWire  | May 04, 2011

Emerging markets and industry needs for fibre will outweigh traditional demands for paper

Source: Canadian Business

VANCOUVER, May 4 – The demand for some types of paper, like newsprint and other printing and writing paper will decrease in the next decade but the many other uses for wood fibre will mean dramatic increases in global demand overall, according to a new report from PwC.

PwC’s Canadian Forest, Paper and Packaging Leader Bruce McIntyre says: “Companies from a diverse array of industries – energy, utilities, chemicals and potentially many more as biomaterials evolve – will compete with FPP companies for control of forests, or at least access to their fibre, and the best economic use of the resources they provide.”

As a result, demand will outpace supply and increasing competition for fibre will be a key factor of future supply chains.

“The world’s forests will make a reduced contribution to meeting our increasing needs for wood fibre,” says McIntyre. “Many of these forests are economically inaccessible or are sensitive to disturbance. Instead, these forests are going to be valued for their conservation benefits and that will result in restrictions on industrial wood output.”

Wood fibre needs are increasingly being met from planted forests which currently cover approximately 272 million hectares or 7% of the world’s total forest area. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) estimates that the yield and harvest from planted forests, will need to increase threefold by 2050, with planted land-area increasing 60%.

In 2005, there were already nearly 141 million ha of plantation forests globally, an increase of over 12.8 million ha compared to 2000. Brazilstands out as the world leader in forest plantation agriculture, with nearly 6 million ha of plantations producing significant amounts of fibre for the global market. Brazil’s largest trading partner is now China, and large shipments of pulp are one reason for the increased demand.

The report also finds that in North America and Europe, many of the existing mills simply won’t be needed for newsprint or printing and writing paper. But increasing populations and wealth will mean more fibre is needed, regardless of the reduction in traditional paper use.

In the EU for instance, 340-420 million cubic metres of woody biomass per year is forecast to be needed solely for energy purposes by 2020, if current government policies continue. That level of demand could lead to a forest fibre deficit of 200-260 million metres³ by 2020.

Asia’s emerging markets are also booming. In China and India, absolute demand for paper will still go up, although it won’t increase as quickly as overall GDP growth. China in particular has a large fibre deficit, so pressure to secure access will grow in order to achieve its 2020 goal of 20 million ha for additional woodland planting to fuel bioenergy projects. In 2009, China imported over 100 million metres³ on a roundwood equivalent basis – roughly as much as Canada’s entire timber harvest in that year.

Plantations have already faced a lot of criticism, though, for everything from replacing natural forests with plantations, to displacement of local peoples, to accusations that they have damaged local water tables.

“We believe that plantations still represent the single best opportunity to meet increased demand for forest products without damaging ecosystems, provided planting is done responsibly and balanced with appropriate conservation programs,” says McIntyre.

New methods of accessing available fibre may emerge in response to the growing pressures. PwC sees international fibre exchanges and the emergence of a new biomass aggregation industry as two possibilities, but there may be others as well.

“The focus will shift from accessing fibre to using fibre more efficiently. There will be viable alternatives to woody biomass, although land availability may be a limiting factor,” says McIntyre. “Technologies can help, but those businesses that control, or have secure access to competitive sources of fibre will be the best positioned for growth.”

These and other issues affecting the global forest products industry will be discussed at PwC’s 24th Annual Global Forest & Paper Industry Conference, taking place May 11, 2011 at the Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina in Vancouver, BC. For more information, please visit:www.pwc.com/forestconf11.

For more information, and to read the full report, entitled “Growing the Future“, please visit http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/forest-paper-packaging/publications/new-values-directions-technology-fibre-competition.jhtml. The report is also available from the media contacts.

PwC’s 24th Annual Global Forest & Paper Industry Conference
Over 400 CEOs, senior executives, customers, suppliers, analysts and policy makers from the world’s forest and paper industry will meet onMay 11, 2011 at PwC’s 24th Annual Global Forest & Paper Industry Conference in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Accredited media are welcome to attend the full day conference, please pre-register. Contact Jim Nelson at: jim.nelson@ca.pwc.com, or +1 604 806 7047.

Complete PwC conference and speaker details are available at: www.pwc.com/forestconf11.

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