Development for the north? Let them eat wood

10 January 2018

This letter was published in The Guardian in response to a previous article available here:

The benefits of agroforestry, as outlined in Bibi van de Zee’s excellent report (The latest cutting-edge technology changing our landscape? Trees, 6 January), are indeed numerous, especially the contribution it can make to tackling climate change.

Growing more wood will also provide us with a feedstock for the emerging bio-economy. Finland and Sweden are leading the world in the switch from fossil fuels to wood, with the chemistry telling us that most products previously made from oil can in fact be made from wood.

Joined-up thinking, always a struggle for governments split into departments, is now needed. All regions need new forests and they, including the proposed northern forest, need to include a substantial component of agroforestry. This will increase wood production, which can be used to make products such as industrial sugars for the pharmaceutical industry or substitute for cotton in textiles.

A big climate win would be a significant shift from using concrete in construction, responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, to using timber instead. Vienna is currently building a 24-storey wooden-framed building that will outstrip the world’s current tallest in Vancouver, at 18 storeys.

So let’s hope the tree-planting Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is talking to the housebuilding DCLG (renamed this week as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government).

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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