Scion wins MAF contract to carbon footprint forest

18 December 2007

Crown Research Institute Scion has been awarded a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) contract to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or the carbon footprint, of the entire forestry industry supply chain. Scion will build on its existing research in the field of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the internationally recognised tool for assessment of a product’s environmental impact, to develop methodologies, guidance and operational tools to help the forestry industry better understand and mitigate its total environmental impact. The year-long project, due to start in February 2008, will analyse GHG emissions from initial forest plantings and management, through the timber manufacturing and distribution stages.

It will also incorporate end-of-life scenarios where carbon is potentially released back into the atmosphere. Scion chief executive, Dr Tom Richardson says the project is both a great achievement and recognition of the organisation’s existing success in the field of LCA. “Scion was not only one of the first organisations in New Zealand to work in the area of LCA, but we were also closely involved in the development of its ISO quality standard. “The forestry industry as a whole can now capitalise on our capabilities and international expertise in this field and use it to impact on their bottom line. The ability to give end-users clear information on the ‘greenness’ of products will give organisations a global competitive advantage in what has become an increasingly tight market. “Many of New Zealand’s key international timber markets are putting increasing pressure on suppliers to provide details on GHG intensity throughout product life-cycles. For example, Japan has established a “wood miles” forum to raise awareness on the energy consumed for imported timber transportation.”

The research will be undertaken in collaboration with a number of industry partners including the Wood Processors Association. Through their participation, a series of case studies will be developed to provide the methodology for measurement across a range of timber products, such as particleboard, timber weatherboard and rough-sawn timber. The case studies will provide the foundation for an industry-wide management strategy to enable other key forestry stakeholders to benefit from the research and apply approaches within their own organisations. Wood Processors Association CEO Peter Bodeker says the project will give the industry an advantage over global competitors. “The determination of the carbon footprint for wood and wood-based products will assist in New Zealand-sourced wood being used more extensively in both domestic and international markets,” says Mr Bodeker. It will also complement the NZ Wood initiative to promote the value of plantation forests and wood products being undertaken by the industry he says.

Dr Barbara Nebel, Scion senior scientist says the research organisation has previously conducted LCA research in forest plantation operations and already has access to data, models and tools from that end of the forestry life-cycle. “Now we can focus our research on what happens from the moment the timber is harvested, to when it is eventually disposed of,” she says. “We will also be including the carbon footprint created from the use of biomass to create bioenergy, for example, the use of timber waste residues to create alternatives to coal for heating systems. “One of Scion’s core principles is to advance the awareness and use of sustainable products and processes created from trees and plants. As part of that, we have an absolute commitment to ensure that any bio-based alternatives do not create as many problems as they resolve. “Our existing and continuing involvement in LCA research ensures we are able to deliver on this commitment from start to finish of product life-cycles.” The research findings will be presented to project stakeholders at workshop hosted by the Wood Processors Association in March 2009. Scion is also contributing to a number of other sector projects as part of the New Zealand Government strategy on carbon footprinting.

These include the Fonterra dairy project announced in November and “Maximising Wood", a project to determine the carbon footprint of an office building which is being done in conjunction with the University of Canterbury.