AIEL highlights the state of Italian forests and paves the way for European decarbonisation
Woods and forests fulfill vital functions and produce goods and services that mankind has always used to its advantage. The future challenge for forestry is to reconcile the interests of society and economy with environmental needs, in relation to the profound climate, social and economic changes occurring on a global and local scale.
A new contribution to the Italian debate comes from the Green Paper of Wood Energy published by AIEL, the Italian Association of Agroforestry Companies in collaboration with Progetto Fuoco. In the Green Paper, AIEL outlines its strategy to reconcile biodiversity conservation needs, landscape protection and environmental functions of forests with responsible production of forest bioproducts and services.
Italian forests are far from a condition of over-exploitation but instead they suffer from a chronic state of abandonment, that causes hydrogeological instability, loss of environmental value and economic poverty. According to the latest “Report on the state of forests in Italy”, the wooded area in the last 50 years has doubled and in the last ten years it has increased by 5%. The annual amount of timber harvesting from the forests is between 18% and 34% of the annual growth, compared to the European average of 62%. In the last 10 years, the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by Italian forests has increased by as much as 290 million tons, and the amount of organic carbon stored in Italian forests – therefore permanently removed from the atmosphere – has gone from 490 to 569 million tons.
This is not just a waste of economic resources, because the management of forests is necessary to keep them in good health, since the uncontrolled accumulation of biomass can lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of parasitic infestations and forest fires. The exploitation of biomass for energy production offers a solution in this regard.
A key element of this model is sustainable forest management, which is fundamental for the protection of biodiversity, environment, and the mitigation of climate change. To ensure an efficient and circular use of resources, it is essential to respect the principle of cascadeing use of wood. This means that high-quality wood material with a higher value is used in the production of lumber and intended to create durable products. Only the lowest quality material and residues from the wood industry processes that have no other possible destinations are used for energy purposes, thus enhancing all the assortments and intended uses that can be obtained from the plants.
In a period in which the energy crisis in Europe risks hindering the development of many economic sectors with the danger of plunging many families and businesses into a condition of energetic poverty, the enhancement of renewable energy from wood, through the development of local energy supply chains for the production of biofuels such as firewood, wood chips and pellets is essential because it will allow Europe to make its transition to renewable energy in the shortest possible time.