Forests and the climate – manage for maximum wood production or leave the forest as a carbon sink?


This conference is organized by The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. It consists of an expert workshop (one and a half days) followed by a half-day session during which the outcomes of the workshop will be presented and discussed in a forum that includes not only scientists and engineers, but also industry representatives, government officials, policy-makers, and politicians.

The Paris Agreement sets ambitious targets for climate mitigation, which require transformation of the production and consumption systems that generate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly due to fossil fuel use. Bioenergy is currently the largest renewable energy source used in the EU. Most Member States have, in absolute terms, increased their use of forest biomass for energy towards meeting their Year 2020 renewable energy targets.

The interaction of forests with the climate system is complex. Climate change affects forests, and at the same time forests and forest products industries play important roles in the GHG balance, in that they sequester and store carbon and displace fossil fuels and other products, which would otherwise cause GHG emissions. Forests can also affect the climate in other ways, for example, by modulating the share of incoming sunlight that is reflected back into space (instead of warming the earth surface).

The scientific literature provides a variety of views on how different forests and forest management options can be adapted to climate change–and there are also divergences in view on how they affect the climate. One reason for this diversity of opinion is that scientists assess climate change mitigation and adaptation in the forest sector from different perspectives and entry-points –all of which have their merits. The different contexts of the analyses that are performed exert a strong influence on the formulation of the research questions, as well as on the methods and assumptions related to critical parameters that are then applied. This in turn has a decisive impact on the results and conclusions. The ongoing and vigorous debate on these topics among experts often leads to confusion among decision-makers and citizens.

The purpose of this conference is to establish a shared view regarding some basic principles concerning the role of forests in climate mitigation and adaptation. This is needed for scientists to provide good advice to policy-makers. While mitigation and adaptation are two sides of the same coin, special focus will in this conference be placed on forests and forest management for climate change mitigation.

The conference aims to:

  • facilitate a dialogue about the roles of forests and forest management in climate change mitigation, so as to advance scientific understanding of the topic and clarify divergent views and their underlying rationales;
  • identify knowledge gaps and priorities for future research and data collection, with the aims of improving scientific understanding and supporting policy development of relevance to forest management in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation; and
  • produce and disseminate a state-of-the-art view of forests and climate that reflects the outcomes of the exchanges of opinions and areas of agreement that emerge from the conference.