Long-lived wood products as carbon stocks

Wood has a unique capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it. Wood products serve as carbon stocks, and the longer wood products are used, the longer carbon is kept away from the atmosphere. At its best carbon may be stored in the structures of a wooden building for hundreds of years.

The use of wood in construction, various kinds of structures and furnishings is one way to increase carbon storage in Finland. This will also contribute to substituting non-renewable materials such as concrete and steel with renewable ones. Wood has numerous excellent properties as construction material, and the use of wooden structures is also known to support the users’ wellbeing.

The promotion of wood construction and wood products industry serves many different objectives, including climate change mitigation, a circular economy, sustainable industrial and housing policy, and viable rural areas. At the same time, investments are made in research and product development that increase the added value of wood products and help to find even more diverse uses for wood materials. The aim is also to develop the sustainable utilisation of forest industry side streams.

Use of wood can be increased especially in apartment buildings and public buildings

Wood has a long tradition as a construction material in Finland, but its use can still be increased. Wood products are suitable for all kinds of new build and renovation. Wooden structures can be used for various purposes, including in multi-storey residential buildings, halls and silos. Besides the wooden frames, wood products are often used in windows, doors, interior design and furniture. 

More than a third of Finland’s carbon dioxide emissions comes from housing and construction. Increased use of wood can substitute for the use of construction products that are based on non-renewable or energy intensive manufacturing processes and reduce the total emissions from the operations. Greenhouse gas emissions from the construction sector will decrease when e.g. concrete and steel is replaced with wood. The labour and material efficiency of the construction sector can be further increased through industrial prefabrication.

From the perspective of carbon stocks, it is also important that the lifecycle of wood products is as long as possible. Wood products and different kinds of wooden construction components such as beams can be reused and repaired. Recycled wood can be used for new products made from recycled materials.

Catch the Carbon projects promote the use of wood in transport infrastructure and on farms

The package of measures for the land use sector and Catch the Carbon projects complement the Wood Building Programme implemented under the lead of the Ministry of the Environment by promoting the use of wood e.g. in construction and structures of farms and sparsely populated areas. The package of measures for the land use sector also supports the use of wood in transport infrastructure such as bridges and structures for pedestrian and bicycle and hiking routes and sports and tourism facilities.

In the Catch the Carbon projects methods and calculators are developed for the assessment of the amount of carbon sequestered in wood and wooden structures. Expertise in the sector will be enhanced by producing learning materials on wooden structures and wood products. The project package also includes support for communication and exchange of information concerning carbon sequestration in forests and wood products as carbon stocks. 

Promoting the use of wood in the package of projects for the land use sector is closely linked to the Wood Building Programme of the Ministry of the Environment, programme on the use of wood in transport infrastructure construction of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Climate and Energy Strategy, National Bioeconomy Strategy and National Forest Strategy.

Catch the Carbon projects support the implementation of the Wood Building Programme

The Wood Building Programme 2016–2023 is implemented under the lead of the Ministry of the Environment. The aim is to increase the use of wood in e.g. apartment buildings and large wooden structures and in public buildings. The use of wood materials can be further increased in renovation, including energy renovations of facades, and in the construction of additional floors and infill construction. The aim of the Wood Building Programme is also to strengthen expertise on the use of wood in construction and business activities related to industrial manufacture, and to provide information on wood in construction.

Change in the carbon stock in wood products reported annually as part of the national greenhouse gas inventory

Emissions and removals of the land use, land use change and forestry sectors (LULUCF) are reported for six land use categories and for wood products. The change in the carbon stock in wood products is reported annually. The formula for calculating the change is based on the production of sawn goods and wood-based panels and paper and paperboard. According to the latest greenhouse gas inventory, carbon sequestered in wood products amounted to -3.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (net change in the stock) in 2021. If wood products are compared to other sectors included in the calculation for LULUCF, forest land was the greatest net sink (-8.3 million t CO2 equivalent). The other land use categories are sources of emissions, with cropland as the greatest one (8.5 million t CO2 equivalent). Emissions from wetlands totalled 2.2, from grasslands 0.7 and from land converted into settlements 0.99 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Of the carbon stocks in wood products in the building stock in Finland (about 23 million t C, about 84 million t CO2), the largest amount of carbon (65%) is stored in actual buildings. Small residential buildings account for about a half of this. The remaining 35% of carbon is stored in infrastructure and other structures. Between 1980 and 2016 the amount of carbon stored in the building stock in Finland grew by about 0.2 million t C (about 0.7 million t CO2). According to the greenhouse gas inventories, the average carbon dioxide removals in wood products produced in Finland were about 3.8 million tonnes CO2 in 1990–2019.

Related topics

Call for project applications open until 28 April 2023 - Theme 4 Enhancing expertise related to wood products.

Related links

Wood Building Programme 2016-2023 (Ministry of the Environment) 
Wood in public construction (Ministry of the Environment)
Sector reports on the wood product sector 
Forest Centre website on wood construction
Building with wood at Bioeconomy.fi