In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly declared the 21st of March the International Day of Forests. The Day celebrates the importance of forests all over the world and countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns. Each year has a different theme, and the theme for 2017 is ‘Forests and Energy.’
When we talk about renewable energy sources most people think of the big three: Wind, wave and solar power. But what about wood? It may seem counterintuitive but wood is a one of our most abundant, cheapest and most accessible forms of renewable energy. In fact, in Europe wood makes up 58% of all renewable energy sources. That’s more than wind, water and solar combined!
When it comes to energy production wood is an important natural resource: Over half of the trees cut down each year are used for fuel, a third of all homes in the world use wood as their primary source of energy for cooking, and 80% of people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on wood as their only source of fuel. This is not without its drawbacks (forest degradation, CO2 emissions and smoke pollution to name a few) but burning trees for fuel doesn’t have to harm the environment. The key is to make it sustainable.
So, what’s the difference between renewable and sustainable? Renewable is any energy source that won’t run out or can be replaced (we will never run out of wind, waves or sunshine for example and trees can be regrown). Sustainable on the other hand means that we don’t use an energy source quicker than it can be replenished, and that we don’t cause excessive damage to the environment in the process. So long as we use sustainable forestry practices, wood as an energy source can make a valuable contribution to sustainable development and greener economies.
To find out more about the importance of wood as a renewable energy source and for ideas on how you can take part in the international day of forests, visit http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/en/