The industry must continue to communicate timber’s role in mitigating climate change, another crisis that could turn the world upside down, writes American Hardwood Export Council European Director David Venables.
Pre-pandemic, the media and political profile of timber and forests were definitely on the rise.
In a breakthrough for our industry, journalists were starting to ask the right questions about forests, wood, carbon and climate change.
When we took our MultiPly cross-laminated U.S. tulipwood demonstration building to Madrid earlier this year, the media coverage was tremendous. It didn’t just feature in the architectural press, but on national TV and radio too, and the focus was on the value of timber construction in urban environments, building with low carbon materials, multi-storey wood buildings, healthier buildings, more sustainable buildings. All those messages we put out were picked up and broadcast loud and clear.
In another example in the UK, the BBC radio news magazine PM featured a focus on forests. It looked at their role in the carbon cycle and climate, at sustainable management and timber production. The BBC’s Costing the Earth series also included a programme on ‘Superwood’, focused on latest uses of timber and wood fibre and their environmental credentials.
At the same time the increasing refrain of political leaders and opinion formers is that we must stop deforestation. The message from timber and forestry sectors and NGOs finally seems to be hitting home; that forests and their capacity to sequester CO2 are vital to mitigating climate change and maintaining biodiversity.
What we are looking at is a potentially great opportunity for the timber industry, but to fully realise it we still have a communication job to do. We must do even more to convince politicians, the market and media that as well as combating deforestation, we should be using more and a greater variety of wood in a wider range of applications. That way we can simultaneously incentivize forest maintenance and lock carbon into buildings and products for years, even generations.
AHEC takes a dual approach on this. We provide tools and solid data to support our claims for the renewability and legality of American hardwood. Our LCA tool, updated interactive forest map, and American Hardwood Export Profile documentation provide all the evidence to convince specifiers, end users and consumers of the sustainability of the resource.
At the same time we work with the creative industries, the architects and designers who shape what and how we consume and how we live. We support them in use of U.S. hardwoods in different ways and formats and, with the power that comes from combining knowledge of the material with creative minds, we’ve seen you can achieve almost anything.
And we’re continuing this work in the pandemic. We’re working with nine designers in lockdown across Europe, their challenge to design furniture in cherry, maple and/or red oak that will ultimately come together in one installation.
The pandemic has shown how a crisis can turn the world upside down and I believe it will sharpen the realisation that climate change is another crisis that can do the same. Against that backdrop, the onus is even more on our industry to communicate and continue to raise the profile of timber and forests as part of the climate change solution.