Combating Climate Change
Climate change is probably the biggest challenge facing mankind. The paper and pulp industry is making a concerted contribution to ensure that paper's potential as part of the solution to mitigate climate change is being optimised.
The paper industry is a prime example of how natural resources can be used in an efficient way to reduce negative environmental impacts and meet society's need for sustainable consumption
In 2007, the paper industry was the only industry sector legally obliged to reduce CO2 emissions, which actually managed to do so. Since 1990, the CO2 emitted per tonne of paper produced has been reduced by 29%. Further improvements are necessary, however, not least because as the industry has grown during this time, the increased output has led to an absolute rise in emissions. In total, the 40 million tonnes of CO2 produced per year is equivalent to roughly 1% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.
The pulp and paper industry's unique contribution to climate change mitigation lies in biomass - a renewable and carbon neutral energy source made from biological materials, such as wood. The paper industry has turned to this green energy in a big way: biomass now accounts for more than 50% of its total primary energy needs. European papermakers are the biggest industrial producers of bio-energy in Europe, producing 20% of Europe's renewable energy.
By combining renewable, green energy sources with operations efficiencies such as cogeneration, a system that simultaneously produces electrical and thermal energy, the paper industry achieves important energy efficiency gains helping to reduce its carbon footprint
Paper and climate change mitigation:
Eco carbon cycle
The eco carbon cycle starts with sustainable forest management that ensures an inexhaustible supply of wood and the preservation of biodiversity.
The sun drives the pulp and paper eco-cycle: using water, nutrients and carbon dioxide (CO2), photosynthesis transforms solar energy into wood fibres in growing trees. This endless process means that the forest is a renewable source of raw material that provides wood fibres to produce timber products, pulp and paper, and energy as biomass energy.
This CO2 is also kept in forest products, such as books, paper and packaging. Once paper products have been consumed, they can be used as secondary raw materials for paper recycling, expanding the lifespan of wood fibres and hence the duration carbon is stored in the product pool.
Green energy provider
When no longer suitable as a raw material, wood fibres can be used as a source of energy. Green energy sources generated by the paper industry include wood residues, black liquor (a pulp derivative) and production residues. The CO2 released by using the biomass is essential for the growth of wood and in this way the eco-cycle is closed and balanced. Renewable, recyclable, and able to absorb and subsequently store carbon, many benefits emerge from the eco cycle.
Protecting the source
Climate change is intimately linked with forest management . Recognising this link, the paper industry has embraced certification, safety and traceability, while doing everything it can to rein in illegal logging and other unethical practices. By promoting sustainable forest management we can best guarantee the longevity of our forests.
The use of renewable raw material will become more and more important as we look to achieve sustainable consumption and seek to mitigate climate change. The carbon-based products manufactured by the industry and its reliance on biomass indicates that the paper industry is on the way to becoming a truly sustainable industry.