Written evidence submitted by Mr Schofield
There maybe benefits in designating the Forestry and Timber sector as Critical National infrastructure. While there would be little hostile state threat to the UK Forest and timber sector, there would be significant impact on the UK national security and social and economic well being if there was disruption to the sector.
The Office of National statistics has stated the asset value of UK Forests and woodlands was estimated as £129.7 billion in 2017, with timber representing £8.9 billion (6.9%).
The UK consumes circa 16 million m3 of sawn wood and panel products annually, and the construction sector alone consumes roughly 5 million cubic metres of softwood each year. These are used in construction work, such as timber framed buildings, or made into pallets, essential to a large amount of the UK's supply chain.
Branches, tops of trees and smaller trees can be used as wooden posts, or are chipped and pressed to make manufactured boards. These boards are used for flooring, roofing, partitions and flat-pack furniture. This wood can also be pulped to make paper and cardboard and made into anything from newspapers, books, packaging, stationery, wallpaper, kitchen towel or toilet paper.
Bark and other parts left over are used as woodfuel, chippings for playgrounds and mulch for gardens. Even the sawdust and wood shavings, by-products from the sawmill, are also put to use as animal bedding or pressed into wood pellets for fuel to make sure nothing is wasted.
80% of this comes from abroad, and the UK was the second largest net importer of forest products in 2019, behind China. Wood products imported into the UK in 2020 were valued at £7.5 billion and included 7.2 million cubic metres of sawnwood, 3.3 million cubic metres of wood-based panels, 9.1 million tonnes of wood pellets and 4.4 million tonnes of paper. The majority of this comes from Eastern Europe, Baltic and Nordic states.The Russia/Ukraine conflict has already started to disrupt this supply.
As of March 2021, the UK produced 3.3 million m3 of Sawnwood, 3.6 million tonnes of Paper & paperboard and 3.0 million m3 of Wood-based panels. UK Production of wood products decreased by 3% for sawnwood, 9% for wood-based panels and 6% for paper and paperboard between 2019 and 2020
There are significant interdependencies with a number of current CNI sectors, in terms of supply, mainly food and power, but also the ecosystem, such as water.
If supply of Forestry is disrupted, like the major near miss in 1918 where forest cover dropped to 5%, particularly by climate change, this would have a significant impact of the economic and social well-being of the UK. It may also lead to deaths as biomass energy is the second largest renewable energy source in the UK.
There are also the additional benefits of the sector, many linked to climate change. Urban forests and woodland cooled 11 city regions sufficiently on hot days to save £229.2 million in labour productivity and avoided air conditioning costs during 2018.
There were an estimated 475 million visits to forests and woodlands in 2017, on which the public spent £515.5 million collectively. The non-market benefits of forests and woodland exceed the market benefits of timber by approximately 12 times; timber represents £275.4 million out of £3.3 billion total annual value of foretry in 2017.
The removal of air pollution by forests and woodland in the UK equated to a saving of £938.0 million in health costs in 2017. Forests and woodland in the UK removed 18.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, equating to a value of £1.2 billion; this is equivalent to 4% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.
Wildfire, severe storms and Floods could threaten this sector, not just in the UK but all around the world. This could lead to significant issues for the UK. The UK should reduce this dependency and increase the resilience and climate adaptation of its forests.
17 April 2022