We believe growing forests (which absorb carbon) and making forest products (which store carbon) are part of the solution for addressing the global challenges posed by climate change.
Our more than 26 million acres of sustainably managed forests absorb millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, and much of the carbon stored in the harvested trees continues to stay captured in our products during their useful lives.
REDUCING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
We're also committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and limiting our use of fossil fuels by using carbon-neutral biomass for our energy needs. Our goal is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2020 compared with 2000 levels. By the end of 2015, our total (or absolute) greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 29 percent from 2000, driven by consolidating operations to our higher-efficiency mills and replacing fossil fuels with carbon-neutral biomass fuels.
When we originally set our reduction goal in 2002, we were anticipating capital upgrades to fossil-fuel boilers in some of our large mills that have since been sold. In light of our 2016 merger with Plum Creek and the announcement that our Cellulose Fibers business is under strategic review, we will be revisiting our 40 percent reduction as part of a broader strategic sustainability review. We may explore potential realignment or adjustment based on the evolution of our portfolio, but our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases will remain.
PROVIDING SOLUTIONS FOR THE GROWING BIOENERGY MARKET
Wood fiber from forests can be used as a feedstock in bioenergy facilities to produce renewable energy. It includes lower-value material from forest harvesting operations, such as small-diameter trees from thinning, treetops, limbs and bark. Higher-quality sawlogs are typically used to make wood products like lumber, as it is not economical to use sawlogs for energy production. Forest biomass offers a low-carbon energy solution compared with fossil fuel alternatives while keeping forests healthy by protecting them from insects, disease and wildfire.
Renewable energy producers (such as wood pellet plants) need a steady supply of sustainably produced wood fiber for their facilities. We use our expertise to provide these producers a fiber sourcing and supply chain solution consistent with sustainable forestry practices.
BIOMASS CARBON NEUTRALITY AND CLIMATE POLICY
Biomass, which is bark, wood residuals and other organic byproducts, is derived directly from forest management activities or indirectly through our manufacturing processes. We believe biomass from sustainably managed forests should be a part of renewable energy strategies since it helps reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Unlike fossil fuels that add carbon to the atmosphere from nonrenewable geologic sources, carbon associated with the combustion of biomass is part of a natural cycle that maintains a carbon balance. Trees and plants absorb carbon. When biomass is burned, this stored carbon — which would have been emitted through natural decay — is released into the atmosphere and reabsorbed by the growing forest.
Internationally accepted accounting such as by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges that the combustion of wood biomass for energy from countries with sustainable forest inventories, such as the United States, does not increase atmospheric carbon.
We are active in the policy discussion regarding climate change and renewable energy. We support the USDA’s 10 Building Block Strategy for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry as a path for the U.S. to reduce GHG emissions from these sectors. We believe climate change-related public policies that are based on sound science, set clear performance objectives and standards, and leverage free-market economics can achieve beneficial change with respect to energy security and greenhouse gas emissions.
We support policies that:
- Recognize that managed forests and wood products are part of the solution.
- Recognize carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the combustion of biomass and biomass-derived fuels as carbon neutral.
- Ensure that energy-intensive manufacturers are not at a competitive disadvantage in international markets.
- Incentivize and recognize combined heat and power cogeneration facilities for their inherent energy efficiency.
- Establish a robust domestic and international market-based program that recognizes and allows credit for the sequestration and storage of carbon through reforestation, afforestation, avoided deforestation, harvested wood products and forest management projects.
- Provide credit for early actions, such as those taken over the past decade, that reduce GHG emissions or increase sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Climate change-related risks we currently assess include:
- Public policy choices concerning biomass.
- Proposals for carbon legislation at the federal, regional and state levels in the United States and Canada, as well as international climate change agreements.
- The cost of energy and the definitions of renewable energy forms, such as biomass.
- Physical risks of climate change, including changes in temperature and precipitation and the variability of disturbance events such as fire, flood and hurricanes, which could affect the forests we own and manage.
Opportunities we may pursue include:
- Developing our capability to assess the opportunities and risks of participating in carbon markets in the future.
- Additional market opportunities for forest-based products, both for existing product lines and for new innovations using renewable forest products. We believe forests and related biomass can be a prime source of raw material for a variety of products that will benefit an economy striving to use renewable and low-carbon products.