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Thu, 24 September 2020

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From tackling climate change to increasing employment, British forestry provides social, economic and environmental benefits to society

From tackling climate change to increasing employment, British forestry provides social, economic and environmental benefits to society

Wherever one looks, connectivity exists between the supply of timber, the defining of policy, the prevention of further unemployment, and the climate crisis, says David Hopkins | Credit: Wood for Good

David Hopkins, Managing Director, TTF (Timber Trade Federation) | Wood for Good

3 min read Partner content

British forestry and tree planting provide social, economic and environmental value in rural communities; it protects biodiversity, and it protects the ecosystems services and natural capital we rely on. 

Sitting in the middle of the construction supply chain does not mean sitting on the fence. 

The timber industries are worth around £10 billion to the UK economy, outside of the value to GDP represented by the wider construction sector. 

The products which our sector trades and utilises make a valued contribution to climate change, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere while trees are in active growth. 

Harvesting those trees to build houses locks the CO2 away for the lengthy life of the homes concerned. 

From forestry to construction, timber products connect employment and social, economic and environmental value. 

Yet are we, as a sector, sufficiently connected to those policy-makers deciding the future of our businesses?

British-produced timber is often used in the timber frame housing industry, whether built traditionally or offsite using innovative factory-style production. 

Joining the dots involves taking a 360-degree look at many inter-connected areas. 

British forestry and tree planting provide social, economic and environmental value in rural communities; it protects biodiversity, and it protects the ecosystems services and natural capital we rely on. 

Further along the connected line the timber stores carbon in buildings, and building in turn provides jobs in construction, homes for voters and underpins economic activity which sustains both government tax revenues and society. 

Britain’s forests though, whist contributing to rural employment, to climate change through carbon storage, and to biodiversity, mental and physical wellbeing, are insufficient to provide all the timber we require. 

Imports from EU countries will thus need to continue. This must be given consideration in the on-going trade negotiations. 

Raw materials that our members bring in from EU countries also support the British-based manufacturing of energy-efficient timber windows, and other products, much needed for retrofitting properties towards UK PLC’s mandatory climate change targets.  These raw materials keep British joinery businesses competitive against imported manufactured windows.

With the present state of play, certain timber raw materials used in joinery are likely to carry a tariff in any Brexit no-deal situation. Additional costs incurred could place host of joinery manufacturing jobs nationwide at risk.

Connecting the dots in policy-making is essential to maintaining progress on providing affordable climate-friendly homes, energy saving retrofits, climate change targets and job retention. 

Wherever one looks, connectivity exists between the supply of timber, the defining of policy, the prevention of further unemployment, and the climate crisis. 

Increasing the timber used in construction has already been cited by the Committee on Climate Change as one of the best ways forward to achieve Government’s CO2 ambitions. 

Making that recommendation a reality by adopting a ‘fabric first’ approach to building homes is yet to become part of policy. 

Wood fibre insulation, currently a niche product, could expand to provide breathable, anti-mould insulation for many hard to fit homes. Due to the density of the carbon-storing wood fibre used, it could make an additional contribution to reducing society’s climate change impacts. 

Connecting the dots in policy-making is essential to maintaining progress on providing affordable climate-friendly homes, energy saving retrofits, climate change targets and job retention. 

Recognizing the potential of the wood industries, from seed to site and beyond, should mean that policy-makers and their advisers are keen to include us in discussions at every level. 

However while we are recognised by certain Departments, others tend to view us as simply part of ‘construction’. 

We aim to change that viewpoint, and to demonstrate our credentials as central to strategy across a spectrum of policy issues. 

We’re out to prove that, wherever connectivity with our sector is activated, Wood Co2ts Less - for the economy and for the climate.

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