Specifically, the IPCC's recent report - which was written by the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change and is considered by global policymakers to be the blueprint for climate change mitigation - declared that "a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber, or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained [climate change] mitigation benefit."
Sustainably sourced wood pellets, which are produced from forests whose inventories have been steadily growing and increasing over time, are a drop-in energy alternative to fossil fuels. Enviva, the largest producer of sustainable wood pellets in the world, invests heavily in policies, systems, and third-party verification to ensure its sourcing practices continue to support carbon stock and inventory growth in the working forest landscapes where it operates.
In general, sustainably sourced wood pellets (and the biomass industry) has proven beneficial for both increasing forest growth and mitigating climate change.
From A Forest Perspective
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are more trees and forests in our country today than there were 100 years ago, and the data show that for the last 20 years, forest growth in the United States has exceeded removals by nearly 50%. In the U.S. Southeast, where Enviva's sustainable biomass is produced, forest stocks have increased more than 100% since 1953. As further detailed in Enviva's Track & Trace data, there are 336 million more tons (a 16% increase) of wood inventory in the U.S. Southeast after deducting all of the forest products and bioenergy produced from this growing resource.
In short, "active" forest management is the most effective way to increase forest carbon storage and improve forest health. Specifically:
· Forest Product Markets Drive Forest Growth
Multiple third-party data demonstrates that an increased demand for forest products has resulted in more, not less, forest inventory.
· Managed Working Forests Are Better for the Climate
Accounting for the carbon stored in products and the avoided emissions from fossil energy, managed working forests are more effective at mitigating climate change than forests that are left alone. Actively managing a working forest helps its ability to absorb and store more carbon. On the whole, most well-managed forests are net carbon sinks, or in other words, they absorb more carbon than they release.
· Forest Management Promotes Forest Health and Reduces Forest Vulnerability
Just as a garden needs to be tended and weeded to thrive, so does a forest. Unmanaged forests tend to have an increased amount of dead fuel near the ground surface and combustible fuel in the forest canopy. The United States has, unfortunately, witnessed an increased frequency of severe wildfires in recent years which can be costly, lead to the loss of forests and biodiversity, threaten populations, and in some cases leave forest floors sterile and unable to reforest for long periods of time.
From A Climate Perspective
International scientists as well as recognized institutes such as the IPCC, EU Joint Research Center (JRC), and the International Energy Agency (IEA) support biomass as a renewable energy source and recognize the value of sustainable forestry in combating climate change. Enviva defines sustainably produced "good biomass" as climate neutral as long as it comes from a region in which the carbon stocks of the forests are stable or increasing. Good biomass does not use any material that could have any other high-quality use and is only sourced from forests that are replanted after harvest.
When sustainably sourced, wood biomass:
· Generates More Than Just Power
To date, biomass is the only renewable fuel on the market that is readily available and can replace fossil fuels for both power and heat generation. Woody biomass is a renewable fuel source that provides global power and heat generators with a drop-in alternative to fossil fuels and is in high demand as a result of its end-uses for heat, transportation, and electricity.
· Ensures A Stable Grid
For power generation, woody biomass provides reliable, scalable, and dispatchable energy that complements the intermittency of wind and solar.
· Reduces More GHG Emissions than Coal and Natural Gas
Sustainably sourced wood pellets have been proven to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 85% on a lifecycle basis compared to coal, and by more than 70% compared to natural gas.
Looking ahead, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a promising solution – and one of the very few options – that can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere, creating negative emissions. Once matured, BECCS could mark the beginning of a new era for low-carbon fuel applications that will enable companies to meet and/or exceed international net zero targets.
In conclusion, the world is in need of more renewable energy solutions and sustainably sourced woody biomass offers extensive benefits to both the environment and forests.