U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   07/08/2003
 
American Forest and Paper Association
Agricultural Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide

INTRODUCTION

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) appreciates the opportunity to express its views on the role of carbon sequestration and its capacity to offset greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere from transportation, industrial and other manufacturing activities. We support the efforts of the subcommittee to examine the carbon life cycle of natural resource management activities that can provide significant contributions to the nation’s voluntary efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases (GHGs).

AF&PA is the national trade association of the forest and paper industry and represents more than 240 member companies and related associations that engage in or represent the manufacturers of pulp, paper, paperboard and wood products. America’s forest and paper industry ranges from state-of-the-art paper mills to small, family-owned sawmills and some 9 million individual woodlot owners. AF&PA is participating in the Administration’s Climate VISION program, and its members have collectively committed to actions that they expect will reduce their greenhouse gas intensity by 12 percent by 2012.

AF&PA has been engaged in the issue on the role of forests and global climate for more than a decade. We have sponsored technical research through the technical research arm of the industry, supported efforts of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and cooperated with many agencies on programs to improve the understanding of forests and their role in mitigating carbon dioxide buildup. In at least one important respect, the forest products industry is unique among industries. The natural resource that we grow and use as raw material, and the products we subsequently manufacture, all play a role in sequestration of atmospheric carbon.

CARBON SEQUESTRATION

The world’s 3.5 billion hectares of growing closed-canopy forests sequester and store many billions of tons of carbon above and below the ground. Known as “carbon sequestration,” this process begins when growing trees uptake carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and emit oxygen. Managed forests, productivity improvements, and the creation of new forests around the world are increasing the amount of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, managed forests currently remove 300 million metric tons of carbon each year – equivalent to about 17 percent of total annual U.S. greenhouse emissions. This is equivalent to removing the carbon dioxide emissions from 235 million automobiles on the road per year. Furthermore, when trees are harvested, and converted to products – such as those used in buildings, houses, and furniture – they continue to store carbon for many decades or longer.

FOREST CARBON SEQUESTRATION

Forests provide enormous benefits. Only recently has carbon dioxide removal by forests been recognized as a major co-benefit to the environment in addition to wildlife habitat, water quality, recreation, aesthetics and other resource amenities. As Congress proceeds to create forest carbon sequestration economic and environmental opportunities, the AF&PA membership believes that forest management must be a driving force in improving forestland health and productivity. Incentives that encourage forest stewardship, improve land management practices and prevent the further conversion of forestland to other uses will provide multiple benefits including carbon storage

Numerous scientific and technical studies have been conducted to demonstrate that active and sustainable forest management sequesters and stores more carbon than preserving a forest forever or extending a rotation beyond its biologic maturity. The most comprehensive and clearly articulated explanation of the role that forests play in the global climate issue is contained in the report: Forests and Global Change and published by American Forests in 1992. Authored by forestry experts from universities, the U.S. Forest Service and other researchers, the two-volume set contains numerous examples of how active forest management sequesters and stores more carbon than unmanaged and longer-rotation stands.

A simple comparison of total carbon storage among two Douglas-fir management prescriptions provides a clear and convincing picture of how active management increases carbon sequestration. The two management prescriptions are no management and active management over a 100-year rotation. Because the active management prescription undertakes thinnings in years 30, 40, and 50, increased growth results on the residual stand due to stand improvements, reduced competition, and increased sunlight that enhances growth. In addition, the trees and the carbon embedded in the harvested material are used for wood products, displace fossil fuels, and can be recycled. As a result of active management over a 100-year rotation, total carbon accumulation is 20 percent more than the unmanaged stand, and this does not account for the biomass fuel and wood products derived from management actions taken in the interim years. This result demonstrates that actively managed forest stands provide greater carbon benefits than unmanaged forests. And because managed forests remove dead, dying and decayed material, it lowers fire risk and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from uncontrolled wildfires caused by the build-up of fuels from un-thinned stands.

The forest products industry believes that this is an extremely important point for the subcommittee and the Senate to consider as domestic and international policies are developed to determine what opportunities forests will have in reducing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.

PRODUCT CARBON SEQUESTRATION

In addition to managing forests that sequester carbon, the industry also produces products that make an important contribution to carbon sequestration. Harvesting and manufacturing of forest products essentially transfers carbon from one carbon pool – the forests – to another carbon pool – the product pool. The carbon contained in these products continues to be sequestered from the atmosphere.

In some cases – such as building materials – products remain in use for very long periods of time. Recycling also affects the length of time carbon is stored in products, as the higher the percent of product that is recycled into new product, the longer the carbon remains in use. Additionally, many products that are discarded continue to store carbon in landfills. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that on an annual basis harvested wood products, including those products currently in use and in landfills, represent almost 30 percent of net sequestration from U.S. forests.[1]

Moreover, as world-wide demand for forest products increases, the amount of carbon stored in the products pool increases, thus offsetting global greenhouse gas emissions. Using Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) statistics, it has been estimated that the harvested wood products produced by the global forest products industry in 1990 contained 346 million metric tons of carbon.[2] More importantly, the analysis indicated that the stocks of sequestered carbon in products in use and in landfills were increasing at a rate of 139 million metric tons of carbon per year. This annual increase in carbon sequestered in products – which is equivalent to removing over 100 million cars from the road annually – also represents an equivalent net removal of carbon from the atmosphere that is substantially more than the annual direct greenhouse gas emissions from the global forest products industry.

The scientific validity that carbon is stored for long periods of time is well documented. Extensive research has been conducted and published not only by the U.S. Forest Service but also other natural resource agencies in Europe, New Zealand, and Japan. The U.S. Forest Service work is acknowledged and cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. State Department repeatedly. Additional support comes from the October 2000 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report with a section discussing opportunities offered by forest products as a recyclable store of carbon and a renewable source of fibers for the mitigation of climate change.

A PATH FORWARD

AF&PA has several recommendations regarding carbon sequestration in forests and harvested wood products as well as voluntary efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG).

First, there must be clear recognition of the fact that forest and product sequestration removes carbon from the atmosphere and thus mitigates greenhouse gas emissions.

Second, understanding the existing forest base can shed important light on how to improve existing forest management practices for the retention of carbon and what opportunities exist to enhance the existing forest land base to store more carbon. AF&PA suggests increasing funding levels to the Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) Program contained within the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Research program as specified in USFS/National Association of State Foresters Memorandum of Agreement and endorsed by the Second Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA. This data collection and analysis program, recently amended in the 1998 Farm bill by Congress, called for annual data collection with a completed cycle in each state every five years. We strongly support this effort. It provides the underlying data not only for carbon sequestration but also provides the core information on forest resource trends.

Third, development of a national accounting system is critically important. Presently, the USFS provides estimates of carbon sequestration on all managed forestlands in the United States, including public and private. These estimates are based on forest inventory data collected through the FIA Program. Carbon projections are estimated by using a combination of sophisticated timber supply, area projection, wood use and carbon content models. These estimates must provide a reliable prediction of current and future carbon sequestration in the forest strata including soils, understory, overstory, and trees. These models also form the basis for estimating the long-term storage of carbon in wood and paper products and in landfills. Such information is an important component in correctly assessing the U.S. carbon cycle and is necessary for assessing and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.

Fourth, the committee should seriously consider how the forests of today can be more actively managed to increase carbon sequestration and prevent emissions through improved productivity. To this end, we would urge the subcommittee to recommend increased funding for forest productivity research in tree physiology, biotechnology and soil productivity as outlined in a compact with the Department of Energy in the Agenda 2020 industry partnership program.

Fifth, the committee should find ways to encourage cogeneration with the goal of extracting maximum usable energy from biomass, waste and fossil fuels and the development of productive uses for the non-combustible products. Biomass and Black Liquor Gasification technologies should also be commercialized to allow improvement in efficiency and displacement of fossil fuels.

Finally, we believe the committee should support funding of global, long-term, technology based efforts that allow for continued economic growth.

CONCLUSION

AF&PA and its member companies want to continue to work with the subcommittee on forest and product sequestration issues. Again, we appreciate the opportunity to present our views.

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Policy. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2000. EPA 430-R-02-003, April.

[2] Winjum, J.K., S. Brown, B. Schlamadinger. 1998. “Forest Harvests and Wood Products; Sources and Sinks of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” Forest Science, Vol. 44, No. 2, May 1998, pp 272-284.