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International Day of Forests: Forest talk unveils innovations for a greener future

International Day of Forests: Forest talk unveils innovations for a greener future

International Day of Forests 2024

In a world grappling with the escalating crisis of global warming – evidenced by the accelerated melting of glaciers worldwide – the imperative for action has never been greater. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion are the foremost contributor to global warming, accounting for a staggering 75% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This shows we need to minimize our reliance on fossil fuels and confront the widespread consequences of fossil fuel-derived materials, notably plastics.  

In the midst of these environmental challenges, there is hope rooted in the world's forests. Often hailed as the planet's lungs, forests are far more than just a collection of trees. With their vast expanse, forests offer a renewable, biodegradable, and incredibly versatile resource in the form of wood. They serve as a source of innovation for sustainable solutions to combat climate change and pave the way for a greener future.  

Wood-based solutions are revolutionizing industries and climate action. On International Day of Forests, UNECE brought together experts and stakeholders from various industries to explore the transformative potential of wood innovation in addressing climate challenges, from low-carbon construction to the production of man-made cellulosic fibers (MMCFs) and adhesives made from lignin, an organic material found in wood.  

In the construction industry for example, prioritizing the utilization of low-carbon materials such as wood, over energy-intensive alternatives like concrete and steel, has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of cities. 

The textile and fashion industry can also change. Guiding us along the transformative path from wood chips to pulp to cellulose solution to spun fibers, experts emphasized the importance of wood as a potent force for change for the fashion and textile industry. MMCFs present the opportunity to steer the estimated USD 2.5 trillion global fashion sector towards more sustainable and circular processes by shifting production away from oil-derived synthetic fibers and mitigating the depletion of fresh water associated with cotton cultivation. What is more, these modern production techniques promise to capture and reuse toxic chemicals, sparing our environment from harm. 

The event highlighted the wide-reaching potential of MMCFs, showing their transformative impact, including innovative areas such as glacial protection. “Nature stimulates our creativity and inspires us to truly innovative ideas,” remarked Mr. Krishna Manda, Vice President Corporate Sustainability at Lenzing Group, commenting on their Glacial Threads: From Forests to Future Textile initiative. Still in pilot testing, a wood-based geotextile is used as an insulating barrier to protect glaciers, reducing heat absorption from sunlight and atmospheric temperatures, thereby slowing down the melting process. Leveraging wood-based fibers, this project aims to become a sustainable, and circular, alternative to environmentally damaging plastic-based (polypropylene) products for glacier and snow protection, addressing concerns about harmful emissions in delicate, targeted high mountain environments.  

“In our pursuit to unlock the full potential of forests in shaping a sustainable future, we find ourselves navigating a delicate balance of pressures and harmony. Responsible and sustainable forest management emerges as the key factor in finding this delicate balance between preserving the forest ecosystems and meeting the growing demands placed upon them,” noted UNECE Executive Secretary Tatiana Molcean. Forests hold an immense potential in adapting to and mitigating climate change, but only if they are kept healthy and productive.  

About International Day of Forests 

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. This year, 2024, International Day of Forests celebrated the theme “Forests and Innovation”. 


United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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