The Forestry Commission strategy aims to generate an extra 2m tonnes of wood fuel a year by 2020 – an increase that would cut carbon emission by an annual 400,000 tonnes.

To this end the Government must invest in sustainable forestry, provide technical advice and support for the supply chain, the Forestry Commission said. New ways of engaging with England’s 50-80,000 owners of woodland must also be found.

Launching the strategy, biodiversity minister Barry Gardiner said: “Using wood instead of fossil fuels means that sustainably managed woodland can be a significant resource for a low-carbon economy. Producing fuel from timber taken from well-managed woodlands benefits wildlife too.

“Stimulating the woodfuel market is good for jobs too, and this new strategy gives people the tools to realise the broad range of benefits that woodfuel has to offer. Government, business, communities and local authorities can together make woodfuel work for everyone’s benefit,” he said.

Wood from forest management practices like thinning trees or traditional techniques like coppicing makes for a completely renewable, zero-carbon fuel, as well as boosting plant and animal biodiversity as more light enters the forest.

England is not making full use of the energy resources of its forests, the Forestry Commission said, with 60% of forests under-managed. Bringing them into active management could help support wildlife as well as boosting biomass fuel supply, which currently provides around 3% of the country’s energy.

Forestry Commission Chairman Lord Clark of Windermere said: “Over half of England’s woodlands are currently under-managed. This is a significant and sustainable resource that we want to tap into.

“Bringing more woodland back into management will benefit a range of flora and fauna including species such as nightingales and woodland butterflies. Using wood to substitute for fossil fuels means that well managed woodland can help to combat climate change,” he said.

The Forestry Commission developed the strategy in response to last April’s Biomass Task Force report, taking into account the recommendations of the Stern report.

The Woodfuel Strategy can be accessed here. It will be followed by a detailed implementation plan in the summer.

Goska Romanowicz

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