South African and global forests products industry welcomes UN climate change agreement signing
The International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA) and its members welcome the signing of the landmark United Nations agreement to tackle climate change, set to take place on Friday April 22 – coinciding with Earth Day which this year celebrates the theme of Trees for the Earth. The agreement – adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015 – urges countries to implement policies that would allow them to keep a global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. The global forest products industry has a highly significant role to play in the implementation of these targets.
South African forestry companies show progress
Jane Molony, vice president of ICFPA and executive director of PAMSA (Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa) commented that the South African forest products industry plays a very important part in mitigating climate change in South Africa, “Our planted forests store some 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year*.
The South African pulp and paper sector further avoids 1,3 million tonnes of fossil fuels and associated emissions annually through the use of renewable energy in the papermaking process.
Molony adds, “Our two larger member companies have done incredibly well in reducing their emissions and ramping up renewable energy efforts.” Mondi, globally and in SA, has reduced its specific CO2 emissions by 33% over the last 12 years, while globally Mondi pulp and paper mills were electricity self-sufficient in 2015. Fifty nine percent of the fuel consumption of Mondi mills now comes from renewable energy sources (mainly from biomass from pulp production processes).
Sappi SA achieved 31.9% reduction in specific purchased fossil energy in 2015 (with 2000 as a base year) while its energy self-sufficiency level currently stands at 42.3%, closely reflecting its high use of renewable energy of 42.8%.” Sappi SA’s level of fossil energy intensity decreased by 32% since 2000, while Sappi’s Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect) emissions have declined by 25% and 30% respectively over the last five years.
At a global level in 2015, Sappi’s generation of renewable energy (derived from black liquor, sludge and biomass) stood at 52.4% – an increase of 6.1% over five years.
Paris agreement is crucial to implementing some of the policies that consider biomass as carbon neutral
“The global forest products industry has made significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint, stocking carbon, and generating greenhouse gas removals – all helping to mitigate climate change,” said ICFPA President and Brazilian Tree Industry (Ibá) President Elizabeth de Carvalhaes. “This agreement is crucial to implementing some of the policies that consider biomass as carbon neutral when harvested from sustainably managed forests and to further recognize all positive contributions that forests and forest products provide in combating climate change.”
The inherently-renewable global forest products industry remains committed to mitigating climate change for the benefit of the green economy and society at large. ICFPA members have achieved an impressive 5% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions intensity since 2010/2011 and 17% since the 2004-2005 baseline year (2015 ICFPA Sustainability Progress Report).
The forest industry’s significant role in mitigating climate change was highlighted in the ICFPA-commissioned report Analysis of Forest Contributions to the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) by acclaimed researcher Paulo Canaveira. Having looked at the contributions of forests in the national targets of ICFPA member countries (INDCs) and global mitigation effort from 2020 onwards, the report concludes that many countries identify forests and the land-use sector as relevant to policies and measures implemented to meet their targets. Reducing emissions from deforestation, but also sustainable forest management, afforestation and reforestation are commonly mentioned as key mitigation practices. In some developing countries, they even constitute the country’s main contributions.
Other climate change mitigation efforts of the global forest products industry include supporting national and regional climate policies and programs; investing in technologies with low carbon footprints and ones that improve carbon sequestration; and developing bio-based technologies to find innovative ways to use wood fibre and substitutes for goods traditionally made from fossil fuels.
Trees – in all forms – are essential to life on our planet. They absorb excess carbon dioxide and pollutant gases, and provide clean air, water and climate regulation. As a renewable resource and a livelihood for many communities, forests are an important part of the solution to meeting global needs for foods, fuel, fibre, medicine and other essential products to daily life.
*Based on an average absorption rate of 27 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year using the Forest Industries Carbon Assessment Tool (FICAT).
Collectively Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) and the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (RecyclePaperZA) represent 10 pulp, paper and tissue manufacturers, some of which have forestry interests or are involved with the recovery, processing and converting of recovered paper fibre.
- The South African pulp and paper manufacturing sector is a robust, well regulated and highly developed industry, and two of its members rank among the top 20 pulp producers in the world.
- Over 80% of South African plantations comply with the Forest Stewardship Council’s stringent environmental management standards and South Africa has the distinction of having been awarded the highest level of international certification in the world.
- It is estimated that 260,000 trees are planted daily. South Africa’s indigenous forests are protected and, as such, play no role in the local paper manufacturing industry.
- Annually, 9% of a total area of 762,000 hectares is harvested for pulp and paper manufacturing purposes. All harvested trees are replaced with saplings within the same year. To augment the sector’s virgin fibre supply, the recovery and recycling of paper is also well developed.
- More information on the South African pulp and paper industry is available at www.thepaperstory.co.za
The ICFPA represents more than 30 national and regional forest and paper associations around the world. Together, ICFPA members represent over 90 percent of global paper production and more than half of global wood production. For more information about the global forest and paper industry, visit icfpa.org.