The forest sector has great potential for contributing to inclusive green growth, as it is labor intensive, provides significant export opportunities, and, if managed sustainably, can help to mitigate climate change. Promoting harvested wood products (HWP) (such as wood for construction or furniture, or biomass for energy) is an important strategy for maximizing the economic, social, and environmental potential of the forest sector. When trees are harvested and turned into HWP, the woody biomass of the HWP continues to store carbon until the product is burned or decomposes.
Depending on the use of the HWP, carbon storage can range from immediate release (fuelwood) to release centuries later (construction) (figure 1). By delaying the release of carbon back into the atmosphere, HWP can help to mitigate climate change. In addition to the direct mitigation effects of carbon stored or conserved in forests, HWP can reduce carbon emissions by acting as a substitute for fossil fuel–intensive materials, such as concrete or metal for construction. Material substitution effects have high potential for mitigation. For example, producing a concrete-based wall emits 15 times more carbon dioxide than producing a wood-based wall (Albrecht 2008).2 As fuelwood, HWP are also used for energy; however, this analysis does not estimate the mitigation potential of wood-based energy. In the context of climate finance, promotion of HWP has the benefit of attracting private sector investment and leveraging any public resources spent. Moreover, strengthening the forest sector and promoting the production of wood-based products would allow national governments to achieve other economic and social objectives, such as rural employment.