When you want to create a net zero carbon supply chain, sustainable timber has a lot of advantages. It is inherently a low-carbon commodity, and a carbon capture and storage solution. Now with the merger of the Timber Trade Federation and TRADA to create Timber Development UK, we have an opportunity to do better, writes Timber Development UK sustainability director, Charlie Law.
Timber has long been a fractured industry. In contrast to the likes of steel or cement, where just a few very large players control the market, the timber supply chain consists of many players, and many thousands of businesses – big and small – as well as individuals. This can make the kind of collective effort required to achieve net zero carbon emissions as an industry quite difficult.
With Timber Development UK, this is changing. Already the energy around this new organisation is lending itself to taking on the big challenges which we all face as an industry, including on one of the first big projects we have embarked on; a net zero carbon roadmap for the timber industry.
At the heart of this project are businesses, and people. From our members in the forest, through to those in the city, including all our specifier members from TRADA, we want all to know that they are connected to a supply chain which is doing all it can to bring carbon emissions to net zero. By working together, we become more than the sum of our parts.
By embarking on this journey now, we are also setting out to meet the commitment made in the UK, enshrined in law, to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels by 2035 – joining the UK Governments legal target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our own commitments are engendered in our target, as set out below:
“TDUK, recognising that climate change poses a threat to the economy, nature and society-at-large, commits to take action immediately in order to:
– Support our members in halving greenhouse gas emissions intensity before 2030
– Achieve net-zero emissions before 2050
– Disclose our progress on a yearly basis
In doing so, we are proud to be recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, and join governments, businesses, cities, regions, and universities around the world with the same mission.”
In contrast to some of the market actors and associations who have been responding to these legal targets with an intense flurry of paperwork, we stand apart from the industries responsible for global emissions who cite unproven technologies as the keys to propping up their carbon-intensive activities, instead beginning our journey from a relatively low-carbon starting point.
Over the past six months, we have brought together a partnership across all the trade associations which work in the timber supply chain, ranging from CONFOR through to the likes of the Structural Timber Association, Trussed Rafter Association, British Woodworking Federation, and Wood Protection Association. This is a multibillion-pound network of thousands of businesses.
We are only at the start of the journey, beginning to scope out the industry’s emissions profile and understand where our material carbon emissions sit. While we know that timber itself is inherently low-carbon, we need to understand the relationships between our processing, our kilning, and transport emissions – and how can these be improved.
Once we have done this, we can move onto the next step – which is to identify opportunities for decarbonisation, and finally at the end of this process, we will have a public facing net-zero carbon roadmap and a user toolkit to support the industry to reduce their carbon emissions.
This is essential, not just for the environment – but for business. From large financial institutions seeking to embed their ESG commitments, to politicians seeking to take action on their constituents’ concerns, and through to individual consumers seeking to vote with their wallet, as an industry the demand to show action on climate change is – much like the temperature – going to increase.
By understanding our carbon footprint, as an industry and as individual businesses, we can start to target the key areas of carbon intensity and bring these down in line with our 2050 target. With many of the pieces now in place, we look forward to working with our members, and the wider timber supply chain, to demonstrate that timber is the ultimate, low-carbon solution for creating a modern, circular economy.