Forests and woodlands are as much part of the mix of solutions for the Biodiversity and Climate Emergency as they are themselves under threat from it.
The UK Climate Change Committee have set out strong recommendations for 30,000 hectares of new woodland per annum by 2050 (UKCCC, 2020), of which a significant portion will likely be commercial plantation woodlands. Expansion and sustainable management of this new woodland will act as a mechanism for meeting UN Sustainable Development Goal 15, combatting climate change, improving home-grown timber supply for the construction sector, and providing a wide range of valuable public goods.
Plantations, alongside other forms of woodland creation, have an important role in carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation, providing public amenity and recreational benefits and biodiversity conservation. The coniferous forest resource in Great Britain is increasingly expected to deliver a broad range of ecosystem services to society; this alongside the provision of timber and other forest products, through management for multiple objectives, often within a small geographical area.
Welsh Government commissioned Woodknowledge Wales to conduct a review to identify the top five alternative commercial tree species suitable to meet timber utilisation demands in light of increasing potential pest and disease pressures as a result of climate change.
Our approach to identifying the top five alternative tree species for GB has drawn on and collated the existing knowledge base through literature review and inputs from a broad range of stakeholders. It does not capture experience found on the ground which has not been published, yet. Results should be seen as a starting point for further investigation.
In this sense, we have set out on a journey of collaboration bringing together stakeholders to discuss potential ways forward. If you would like participate in our future stakeholder workshops, please get in touch.
Please note this an amended version of the report published on the 23rd June 2021 which now lists the top five ranked species in Table 3.6 in the correct order (Thuja plicata and Sequoiadendron giganteum were in the wrong order in previous versions).
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5 Essential Strategies for an Emerging Forest Nation
Wales is not a forest nation. Wales is a sheep, beef and dairy nation. Wales is a steel nation.
Like many nations, Wales is the economic country it is, not by political design but largely because of historical accident. And there has never been a better time or more reason to change. We have left the European Union and have also declared a Climate Emergency. A more purposeful approach is now required to achieve the net zero carbon goals set by Welsh Government
Therefore, we are proposing five integrated strategies for how Wales can achieve a just transition to become a new high-value forest nation. A transition that would create substantial employment and a transition for which Wales has many natural advantages.
Wales has suitable and available land for afforestation, fantastic climate for growing the kind of trees that industry needs, the land and workforce for new industries and proximity to almost limitless export markets for high-value timber products.
Wales must move towards more sustainable low-carbon industrial and land-use options that are geared to meeting the resource needs of the low-carbon society and that are economically viable.
Wales is starting from a long way back. This paper sets out how our slow start can be turned to our strategic advantage if Welsh Government decides to lead in the adoption of integrated economic policies outlined in this paper that are purposefully aligned across our construction, manufacturing and land-use sectors.
The role of our own conifer forests for building a sustainable society in Wales
Despite wide recognition of their value, plantation forests are critically misunderstood and undervalued in Wales. Plantation forests comprise around 7% of the planet’s forest area whilst sustainably supplying over 50% of industrial roundwood. This report looks at myths and tropes around home-grown timber and considers research results from wood science and socio-economic aspects across planting, forest management, timber grading and processing.
Modern British sustainable forest management techniques were established 150 years ago and are still appropriate for efficiently growing construction grade softwoods. Exemplar stands of high grade Douglas fir in north Wales grow some of the largest conifer trees existing in Europe. Older conifer stands across Wales have great potential to produce high grade joinery softwood. Sitka spruce forests are routinely denigrated, nevertheless over 95% of Welsh spruce sawlogs can be graded to strength class from C16 to C27 because of Sitka spruce’s high strength to weight ratio. Yet, quality is regularly used as a weasel word in order to reinforce negative views about Welsh homegrown softwoods.
The FAO reported in 2013 that current trends in European forest management could result in an over-supply of wood from broadleaved species, as well as a shortfall of coniferous timber. Planted forests are exposed to socio-economic risks due to governance failures. These risks comprise a weak or inadequate forest policy framework including insecure investment conditions.
More and Better Home-Grown Timber—The role for a consolidator
What might a business plan for the supply of home-grown timber to the Welsh housing sector look like, if it is to be closely integrated with the ownership and management of the timber resource in Wales?
Additional capacity in the sector has been identified in three key areas: secondary processing capacity; in undermanaged forestry and woodland; and a vast potential for greater tree planting in Wales, for a range of drivers.
This outline of a proposed business plan builds upon a previous analysis, which identified low integration between the supply and processing of Welsh timber, against the increasing demands of the construction sector. In order to deliver a reliable supply of timber, consolidation is required at a point in the supply chain. This could be achieved at two basic levels, either/or by stock of sawn timber collected from a number of small or medium mills, or consolidation of roundwood at a saw log level feeding predominantly one larger mill. The options for investment in both are discussed in this document. The authors seek not to decide at this stage which is better or worse, but to outline the conditions under which each would be viable.
Home-Grown Homes Project—A study for improving the Timber Construction Supply Industry in Wales
The purpose of the Home-Grown Homes project has been to identify and test out interventions that could have a transformative impact on the Welsh timber construction supply chain and on the delivery of low carbon social housing in Wales.
Housing, timber manufacturing and forestry are distinct areas of activity. This project is an exploration of how these three overlapping areas of our economy and society can be drawn into more purposeful alignment.
The project partners have worked closely with a network of organisations across the supply chain and house builders, including 12 Welsh housing associations. Specific actions to improve the business case for tree planting and management on farmland in Wales aimed to create options for re-deployment of farmland to improve productivity and to cope with inevitable reductions to farm incomes post Brexit.
This report identifies which supply chain interventions may be most effective and how they might be applied through regulation or other means.
In addition to the project report, other important outputs have been created that capture the learning from the project activities and support ongoing market driven development of the housing, timber manufacturing and forestry sectors in Wales.
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In addition to the project report, ▸▸ practical tools and guidance have been developed for social housing developers, architects and engineers, timber frame manufacturers and wood processors, forestry managers and land owners. A full list of project outputs can be accessed on the ▸▸ project background page.
Serious About Green?—Building a Welsh wood economy through co-ordination
Why would it be beneficial for Welsh society to build a wood economy? The ‘Serious about Green?’ report takes a closer look and analyses the economic and social parameters.
The report is authored by the team at Foundational Economy Research, led by Karel Williams. It brings together the Woodknowledge Wales forest industries agenda with foundational economic thinking. In a world without silver bullets, we believe the report provides a frank analysis of where we are now, and how a transformative journey to a socially just wood economy can be coordinated.
There’s no doubt this is a challenging agenda. Wales is a sheep, beef and dairy nation and Wales is a steel nation. These activities are deeply ingrained in our cultural identity. They may have been rational activities for the past century but are not well-aligned to the low carbon needs of 21st Century Welsh society. Forestry is.
Furthermore, Wales has a landscape, soil and climate suited to forestry. Well-conceived forestry can address both the biodiversity crises and the climate emergency, whilst providing an industrial resource with which to build and retrofit the low carbon homes of the future.
The report offers insight and stimulating ideas to policy makers, business leaders and citizens interested in a sustainable future for Wales.
Interested in being part of the journey towards a wood based foundational economy? Get in touch to join the dialogue on how to build a foundational Welsh wood economy.
Mandatory quality standards for new homes – WKW response
Woodknowledge Wales have responded to a Welsh Government consultation on “Mandatory quality standards for new homes” which closed on 31 October 2020.
Key targets Woodknowledge Wales propose are need are:
- A target for upfront carbon from April 2023. We propose 300kgCO2e/m2.
- A target for embodied carbon from April 2023. We propose 400kgCO2e/m2.
- A space heating demand target by April 2023. We propose 15 kWh/m2/yr.
- A total energy use intensity target by April 2023. We propose 35 kWh/m2/yr.
Read our full response here.
Serious about Green?
A report commissioned by Woodknowledge Wales by the Foundational Economy to look at how we can build a Welsh wood economy through co-ordination.
Open document HERE.
Comisiynwyd Woodknowledge Wales gan Lywodraeth Cymru I baratoi strategaeth ar gyfer integreiddio cadwyn gyflenwi diwydiannau coedwig Cymru ag adeiladu â phren oddi ar y safle. Mae’r ddogfen hon yn darparu cynllun gweithredu strategol ar gyfer trawsnewid y defnydd o bren adeiladu a dyfir gartref ar gyfer adeiladu tai a helpu i gyflawni dyheadau Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol.
Darllenwch yr adroddiad llawn yma.
Zero Carbon Homes
Welsh Government commissioned Woodknowledge Wales to prepare a strategy for the integration of the Welsh forest industries supply chain with offsite timber construction. This document provides an action plan to transform the use of home-grown timber in house building and help deliver the aspirations of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
Read the report here.