A new report challenges whether France’s long-term forest strategy will truly fight climate change. Produced in partnership with Fern, Canopée and Friends of the Earth France, “Forest Management and Climate Change: a new approach to the French mitigation strategy” shows the flaws in the French plan to produce heat and electricity from burning wood; it offers an alternative vision in which forests play a role fighting climate breakdown, become more resilient to future shocks and still fulfil timber needs.
In January 2020, France released an updated version of its National low-carbon strategy that foresees a significant increase in harvests, which will reduce forests’ capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The new research offers a different scenario: maintaining current levels of harvest for the next 30 years would allow France to implement less intensive forest management practices and let trees grow older.
Less intensive forest management practices would also enhance soil fertility, increase biodiversity and improve the health of forests, making them more resilient to future climate shocks. Additionally, it could boost local economies by localising the supply of timber for buildings and furniture, which is largely imported.
Instead of the starting point of France’s current strategy being how much energy and how many products can be replaced by wood, the study suggests considering the health of the forest and what it can supply without negatively impacting biodiversity. Benefits would include greater carbon absorption, with positive knock-on effects for ecosystems and local communities.