A new report challenges whether France’s long-term forest strategy will fight climate change. The report shows the flaws in the French plan to produce heat and electricity from burning wood and offers an alternative vision where forests can play their role in fighting the climate breakdown, become more resilient to future shocks and still providing for timber needs.
In January 2020, France released an updated version of its National low-carbon strategy that foresees a significant increase of harvests, which would reduce forests’ capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
“Forest Management and Climate Change: a new approach to the French mitigation strategy” offers a different scenario: by maintaining current levels of harvest for the next thirty years, France would be able to implement less intensive forest management practices, and let trees grow older, thereby increasing their capacity to suck up carbon from the atmosphere.
Less intensive forest management practices would also enhance soil fertility, increase biodiversity and improve the health of forests, which would make them more resilient to future climate shocks. Additionally, it would boost local economies by localising the supply of timber for buildings and furniture, which is currently largely imported.
Instead of starting from how much energy and products can be replaced by wood, the study suggests starting by considering the health of the forest and what it can supply without negatively impacting biodiversity.
These conclusions can also be useful to other European countries which, like France, have chosen to rely on biomass burning and increased harvesting.