Wood accounts for half of UNECE region's renewable energy consumption, but improved data critical to better policy-making; UNECE/FAO Joint Wood Energy Enquiry aims to generate, coordinate information

GENEVA , June 14, 2012 (press release) – Recent studies have shown that more wood is used for energy than previously estimated, and that a substantial part of this comes from non-forest resources such as industrial co-products, landscape care wood and recovered wood.

Strong political support has seen wood energy markets grow notwithstanding the economic downturn and the consequent sharp decline in demand for forest products. Wood is currently the principal source of renewable energy in the UNECE region, accounting for about half of all renewable energy consumption. In addition to addressing climate and energy commitments, wood energy has the potential to create new job opportunities in rural areas by stimulating wood harvesting and processing and the development of wood fuel markets and trade opportunities.

A major objective in energy policy in Europe and beyond is to increase the share of renewable energies: ambitious targets have been agreed and incentives have been put in place in several countries. National renewable energy action plans specifying how these targets will be achieved have been drawn up in all European Union member states: similar plans exist for most other European countries or are being developed.

For wood and paper products production, most countries have reliable information available for the current and expected wood fibre supply and demand. On the other hand, wood energy statistics are often scattered among different entities and integrated within statistics on energy from renewables and waste. Energy statistics typically focus on the consumption and transformation side rather than the underlying supply patterns and origin of fuels. Developing reliable statistics on the sources and uses of wood energy is thus a highly cross-sectoral and complex exercise.

The UNECE/FAO Joint Wood Energy Enquiry addresses this information gap by providing a framework for dialogue and cooperation between all relevant wood energy stakeholders. The Joint Wood Energy Enquiry provides specific information on the origin and amount of wood energy consumed by different users. This knowledge allows decision makers to enhance socio-economic welfare by reducing conflicts between energy and material use while guaranteeing the fulfillment of renewable energy targets and sustainable forest management commitments. Reliable statistics are fundamental for policy formulation at both national and international level.

The UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section supplemented its analytical work with capacity-building activities. Thanks to the generous support of the French Ministry of Agriculture, the French Ministry of Sustainable Development and the FAO Forestry Department, over 60 participants from 23 countries and 8 international organizations met in Paris on the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture from 11 to 13 June 2012 at a UNECE/FAO workshop on “Improving Wood Energy Data for Better Policy Making”. Participants discussed the reliability of current wood energy data and identified the weaknesses and constraints. Countries shared experiences, tools and solutions for improving data. A growing network of correspondents and experts is being established as improving data requires constant communication between all stakeholders at both the national and international level.

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