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Climate effect report is a positive for Sweden

Lars Idermark

According to a new report, Södra has a positive impact on global climate change, equivalent to 20% of Sweden’s combined emissions of CO₂ equivalents. The measurements are based on the growth rate of forests owned by Södra’s 52,000 members, and the effects of forest products when they are used to replace more emission-intensive products and energy. Source: Timberbiz

The lead author of Södra’s climate effect report is Peter Holmgren, who has worked at the UN and has many years of experience in forest management and land use from a climate perspective. The co-authors are Göran Örlander, forestry strategist and Eva Gustafsson, Sustainability Coordinator, both from Södra.

“Our understanding of the climate benefits of forests is often limited to the large amounts of CO₂ absorbed by growing trees, but the effect of replacing products like steel, concrete, plastic and oil with renewable alternatives is equally important to mention,” Lars Idermark, President and CEO Södra said.

In recent years, more and more researchers have become interested in how this substitution effect can be measured, and there are many uncertainties. To be on the safe side, Sodra used a model developed by Holmgren/Kolar for measurements and maintained a cautious approach.

Södra’s measurements have been reviewed by external researchers and the results show that Södra has a positive climate-change impact of 9.2 million tonnes of CO₂ equivalents.

Although substitution effects are not included in formal emissions reporting, they are recognised for their ability to slow climate change.

“We have now made a contribution that shows how measurements are possible, even though the knowledge base is not yet complete. We need more research, but also greater awareness among both politicians and the general public that efforts to tackle climate change can be accelerated,” Maria Baldin, Director of Communications and Sustainability at Södra said.

The substitution factor varies for each type of material. The aspect measured is the amount of fossil-fuel CO₂ emissions that is replaced per unit of biogenic CO₂ in forest products. Biogenic CO₂ is part of a natural carbon cycle in which emissions are constantly reabsorbed by vegetation, while the combustion of fossil fuels increases net emissions in the atmosphere.

Using sawn timber for construction has the greatest effect, but replacing plastic food packaging with bio-based trays, or using biofuels instead of fossil fuels such as natural gas or oil, also has positive effects.

The report also accounts for Södra’s negative climate-change impacts, which are mainly derived from the production of input products such as process chemicals and packaging materials, and from the transportation of raw materials to mills, and of products to customers.