CTI Blog

CTI Blog - Global sustainability issues require global and innovative solutions

This blog post is by Dirk Vennix, CTI Chief Executive

Can Economic Growth and Sustainability co-exist? This question has been debated for decades and is at the core of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) taking place this week in Paris.

Preserving Earth’s resources implies not only the switch to a low carbon, sustainable and long-lasting economic model, but also the engagement of all the productive sectors. In other words: global issues require global and innovative solutions.

The challenge is huge but the timber industries are ready to tackle it head on. Timber is the only true renewable construction and manufacturing material and we want to reinforce this message. Flexible, mouldable and low-energy processed, timber-based products could really contribute to a low carbon economy, helping UK to achieve its carbon reduction targets.

Several research studies show that increasing the use of wooden products from sustainable managed forests would have beneficial implications on the environment: - replanting of harvested trees [1]; - storing carbon in timber products [2]; - promoting woodland expansion all over the world [3]; - reducing emissions and air pollution [4].

If the equation is easy to understand - more trees planted = more CO2 absorbed – we still have a long way go to spread this message to key decision makers and opinion formers. The Confederation of Timber Industries will do its share in promoting this new approach. With the help of our supporters including timber supply chain companies and environmental organisations, we are going to publish a report on growing the use of sustainable timber in May 2016.

The aim will be to report on the future of timber as the only truly sustainable material and how the sector could develop a credible place at the forefront of the low carbon economy. Replenishing natural resources, both domestically and globally, is our responsibility, as well as enhancing a sustainable and prosperous model business model.

The CTI Board has already agreed clear objectives in its strategic plan (2015-2017) which will be covered by the report,  including: - develop the case for low carbon footprint in the domestic market; - ensure there is consistent application of standards through established certification schemes; - improve application and enforcement of timber related regulation in key EU member states.

To expand on the last objective the report will include an analysis of the EU’s review of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR). Although it represents a valid tool to tackle illegal logging and trade, its effectiveness is clearly undermined by loopholes and exceptions [5]. Similarly we believe the implementation of the EUTR should be more closely aligned with other related policies such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade).

The CTI welcomes the application of consistent standards, clear due diligence requirements and fair competition between companies in different member states. There is substantial scope for improvements to the EUTR and the CTI strongly supports the WWF and trade associations who are already campaigning on the issues surrounding timber regulation in the EU.

The more united we stand, the more chance we have to make an impact around the decision-making tables. 

 

 


[1] “In managed European forests there are five trees planted for each harvested”, Timber Accord, 2014

[2] “Roughly one tonne of carbon is stored for every metre cubed of timber used. If we build 200,000 new houses in timber it would store around 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year”, Wood For Good, 2014

[3] “Europe’s forests have increased by almost 13 million ha - about the size of Greece - in the past 15 years through new planting and natural expansion of forests,” Forest Europe report, 2011

[4] “By increasing the UK’s forest cover from 13 to 16%, we could reduce around 10% of our national CO2 emissions by 2050”, Timber Accord, 2014

[5] For instance, the EUTR excludes seat products (including chairs and sofas) from its scope alongside musical instruments, soft furnishings and toys. The TTF has estimated that the EUTR currently only covers approximately 40% of products by value that originate from forests 

CTI Blog - Scrapping zero-carbon homes is a false economy

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director of Wood for Good.

The Government has announced that it will scrap the zero-carbon homes target in an effort to apparently “improve housebuilding productivity.”

The zero-carbon policy was originally introduced as a step to meeting the 2008 Climate Change Act’s mandate of an 80% reduction in CO2 from the 1990 levels, by 2050. The Government has claimed that by scrapping the target it aims to reduce regulations on housebuilding and increase productivity in the sector.

However, removing the policy will not only significantly hinder the UK in meeting wider climate change goals, it is also unlikely to lead to any marked improvement in productivity.

There’s a widely held misconception that creating sustainable homes takes longer and is more expensive. This doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, it’s still quicker and more efficient to manufacture, deliver and assemble a high-quality, low-carbon timber-frame building than build one on-site with lower thermal insulation built from materials which directly contribute to carbon emissions.

Scrapping zero-carbon is a false economy. In terms of future productivity, building significant quantities of homes without sustainability in mind now, sets the UK up for a need for continued and expensive maintenance and repair works for the future.

Take social housing – the growing problem of fuel poverty has driven a need for registered providers to retroactively build sustainability into their property portfolios. Many have implemented solar panels, biomass systems, and external and internal insulation funded by the Green Deal, ECO and vast quantities of their own capital.

If sustainability isn’t factored into new build developments now, it will prolong the need for retrospective action in the long term – creating an extra, ongoing financial burden on an important sector.

There is also obvious financial merit in continuing to create sustainable homes in private house building. Timber’s naturally high thermal insulation also acts as a selling point – lowering the need for future retro insulation measures and making homes more attractive to new owners or renters.

Off-site construction using timber can also reduce build times by weeks and even months, improving the efficiency of the build process, allowing new tenants or owners to move in more quickly, and thereby improving the productivity of the project.

Despite the change in plans, the opportunities to continue to improve sustainability are still very much within in the housebuilding sector’s grasp.

This short-sighted policy should therefore not provide cause for developers to ignore sustainability – especially when you consider the significant inroads the industry has made in improving efficiency in housing over the past decade and the continued market demand for this to be included in new homes.

The Government has only removed the targets at the top. This should not mean we have to accept a spiralling race to the bottom

CTI Blog - Missed opportunities in the Summer Budget

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director at Wood for Good.

There were some very clever gimmicks within the Budget announcement. However, four months on from the Chancellor’s pre-election budget, it’s disappointing to see key issues surrounding manufacturing, housebuilding and climate change omitted once again.

Not only do these both represent significant challenges for the UK, but they are all key drivers for economic growth.

The UK timber industry is a vital £9 billion low-carbon manufacturing sector that is key to achieving cheaper, quicker, and more sustainable delivery of housing. Recent reports show that yearly output levels of new homes would more than double, and exceed annual housebuilding targets, if off-site methods were used.

The UK needs a new era of sustainable construction with wood at its heart to boost our economy and reduce our emissions. The budget has missed an opportunity to help drive this forward.