Over the last few weeks a new publicity campaign by the Coalition Bois Québec has been promoting the environmental benefits of the use of wood in construction, specifically for its contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Essentially, using wood in construction is a way of sequestering carbon which would otherwise have released carbon into the atmosphere when the wood is burned. Moreover, the greenhouse gases that are released in the production of steel or concrete will not, theoretically at least, be created.

However, issuing carbon credits for this type of sequestering is controversial because some are worried that it creates an incentive for deforestation.

Generally speaking, the preferred approach from an ecological perspective is to issue carbon credits for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). However, to date, these types of credits are not recognized by either the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) or under the Kyoto protocol. Some groups, including participants at a recent conference in Brussels made up of European scientists and forestry industry representatives, have called for the recognition of Long Lived Wood Products credits at the meetings that will take place in Copenhagen in December. For more information, click here.

Currently, the voluntary Chicago climate exchange issues credits for Long Lived Wood Products but only if certain conditions are met. For more information, click here. In particular, the protocol requires that the wood used in the issuance of these credits originates from forests that are managed according to recognised certification programs.

In Canada, the Federal Government released “Canada’s Offset System for Greenhouse Gases” in June of this year. The system will register and certify specific projects that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In general, this system favours the reduction of carbon in sectors that are not regulated by the planned Federal industrial greenhouse gas emissions regulation. What remains to be seen is whether forestry companies will be subject to these regulations or whether a project that involves the construction of a building with wood will meet the criteria for the offset system.

The guidelines for the Canadian system are in development and a final version is expected later in the fall of 2009. The potential outcome of the Copenhagen meetings with respect to offsets for long lived wood products will be clearer by the end of the year.