Sustainable forestry at home and abroad – Norwegian case

Forestry and forest based industry is important to Norway. Both Norwegian authorities, forest owners and the industry are committed to manage the forests sustainably. Forest owners, through their cooperatives, have taken the initiative to voluntary conservation, certification and sustainable management of the forests. 

  • Published: 02.11.2017
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  • Tags: #Family Forestry  # Issues  # Norway 
  • Norwegian winter wood

    This ensures the coming generations an extra income to the family farm, contributing to food security and nutrition. The feed industry, partly owned by the farmers, have signed a pledge to source soy only from deforestation free production. The government has followed suit and become the first government in the world to commit to zero deforestation. Hopefully this will contribute to food security and nutrition in the exporting country.

    But let us start at home. Forests cover about 40 percent of Norway's land area, or about 122.000 square kilometres. After a long period of sustainable commercial extraction and long term investments, the timber volume in Norwegian forests has tripled over the past 100 years - from 300 million cubic meters in 1919 to about 900 million today. The trees have become taller and the forests denser - and they cover an area larger than ever before. 

    The main tree species by volume and economic importance are spruce, pine and birch. Active and profitable forestry and a competitive forest industry is of great importance for settlement, employment and business development in large parts of the country. Around 25 000 people (of a total population of 5 million) are employed in the forest based value chain. The forest industry adds more than tenfold to the value of the log as it is processed. The potential for increased value creation is large.

    An essential part of family farming

    Norwegian forestry is closely connected to family farming and cooperatives. 80% of the forest is owned by private persons. 80-85% of the timber for industrial use comes from family owned woods connected to forest owners` cooperatives. The timber cooperatives were formed about a hundred years ago by family forest owners. This gave the seller more power and better prices.

    Forest Act and forest certification

    The use of Norwegian forest is regulated under the Forest Act. The aim of the Act is to facilitate sustainable resource management, where harvesting does not exceed the regrowth rate, to secure biological diversity, landscape, recreation for people and cultural values in the forest and develop forests as storage and sinks of carbon. When felling timber, forest owners in Norway are required to promote the regrowth of new forest - either by planting, or by leaving seed trees to provide natural regeneration. Norway was first in the world to map the relationship between density and regrowth - as early as in 1919. 

    More or less all of the Norwegian forest is part of a certification scheme. Norway was in year 2000 one of the first countries in the world to join the world`s biggest certification organisation, PEFC. Through the system the forest owner has to comply with 27 demands, including how to cut the forest, and protection of biological diversity.

    The forest owners` cooperative has also taken the initiative to create a voluntary conservation scheme. Last year the Parliament decided on a target to strictly protect 10% of the Norwegian forest, partly through voluntary protection, partly through protection of publicly owned forest.

    Absorbs half of the CO2 emissions

    Annually, Norwegian forests absorb 30,8 million tons of CO2. This is about 50% of the Norwegian emissions of climate gases. Worldwide forests and non-urban areas consume 25 percent of total global CO2 emissions.

    Norway has chosen to link up to the EU emission reduction scheme for climate gases. This could have a major impact on farming and forestry in Norway. It is essential to the Norwegian forest owners and farmers that the policies adapted allows for a vibrant and sustainable food production and forestry also into the future. The forest sector must be seen in a holistic and long term manner, acknowledging the whole mitigation potential. Policies should allow for active forestry also in forest rich countries, not only focusing in afforestation. It would be unfortunate if those countries enhancing removals by sinks and providing significant climate benefit through sustainable forest management would be penalized by inappropriate accounting rules. 

    Wood as renewable raw material – timber fed salmon?

    Increased use of wood as a renewable raw material is also an important part of the climate solution.

    Wood is part of the natural carbon cycle. Wooden buildings and other wood products contribute to long-term storage of carbon throughout their product life, and when discarded they may fuel bioenergy production. Raw material from the forest is the most substantial source of raw material for bioenergy use. In 2014 the consumption of bioenergy in Norway was 14 TWh. The potential of using also tops and branches today left on the ground, is estimated to 6-7 TWh.


    Wood can replace non-renewable construction materials, or materials that leave a larger carbon footprint. Wood based solutions in construction can lower CO2 emissions by 50%, according to a new report by the Nordic council of ministers. Wood can also replace petroleum-based fuels, solid fuels, and raw materials used in a wide range of products.

    Both wood and oil actually consist largely of the chemical element carbon. Replacing "black carbons" with "green carbons" can benefit both the economy as well as the climate.

    Everything currently made from petroleum, could in the future be made from wood.

    The use of timber as a raw material for fish and farm animal feed is now being tested out, connecting forestry and food security. Wood based pharmaceuticals and jet fuel are among other Nordic examples. The Nordic region has a great potential of replacing fossil-based and artificial resources with bio-based production. We build wooden houses, we are renowned for our wooden furniture, and are exploring ways of producing sustainable textiles from wood residues.

    Sustainable forestry in other parts of the world – soya as an example

    Through imports, Norwegian society also has a responsibility for sustainable forestry in other parts of the world. Norway funds forest conservation projects and human rights programmes for forest communities. Last year Norway became the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.

    But private companies started earlier. In 2015 feed company Denofa, accompanied by feed cooperatives Felleskjøpet Agri, Felleskjøpet Rogaland Agder, and feed companies Norgesfôr and Fiskå Mølle, signed a pledge to source soy only from deforestation free production. They pledged to respect human rights, workers' rights, to work against all forms of corruption and for inclusive regional development

    In September 2014 the Norwegian government called on Norwegian businesses to sign the UN declaration on Forests. Norwegian animal feed producers and Denofa signed. Late in 2014 Denofa and the founder of Earth Innovation Institute, Daniel Nepstad met to draft a possible way to enhance the sustainability of the soy supply chain from Brazil to Norway. In January 2015 the Minister of Climate and Environment and Denofa committed to a public-private dialogue on the sustainability of soy, and specifically on how to halt the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The private-public partnership ran from January 2015 between the Norwegian climate team, NICFI and the private sector under the umbrella of The Corporation of Norwegian Industries (NHO mat og drikke) – all of the Norwegian animal feed producers Felleskjøpet Agri, Felleskjøpet Rogaland Agder, Norgesfôr, Fiskaa Mølle as well as soy processor, Denofa. Also the Rainforest Foundation of Norway took part in the talks, which led to the launch of “The Norwegian commitments on sustainable soy and forests.

    Contrary to many international companies’ commitments to future sustainability visions, the Norwegian Commitment was agri-business wide, supported by some of the largest food producers of Norway (of which the largest dairy and meat producers are farmer owned coops) and by the Government – and it was implemented on the day of signing. Thus, from October 2015 Norwegian agriculture and agriculture based food production soy supply chain was zero deforestation and imports from rainforest countries 100% sustainability certified. The commitment was made an integral part of the signatories’ soy purchasing contracts, and thus legally binding. In no other country in the world an entire industry went thus far in their efforts to protect the world’s natural forests.

    Conclusions – the forest need to be used!

    To Norwegian forest owners sustainable forestry is a prerequisite to keep the forest a stable income for generations to come. Regulations, certifications and voluntary conservation are important tools. But we must never forget that the forest must be used. What gives the best uptake of climate gases is not a passive conservation of the forest, but active use. The forest is a vital source for renewable and environmental friendly materials and energy, giving extra income to the farmer, and thereby enabling food security and nutrition. 

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    IFFA will slowly build up and image bank during 2017. We will gather together photos and videos from IFFA, family forestry, forest and farm producer organisations and similar subjects.

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