Report: Recommendations on biomass carbon neutrality

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Introduction and purpose

Using biomass-derived fuels and materials instead of fossil fuel-intensive alternatives is one approach to mitigating increases in atmospheric CO2. The benefits of using biomass are under question, however, with the debate often centered on whether biomass is “carbon neutral”. As there is no widely accepted definition and different people understand it to have different meanings, the concept of “carbon neutrality” can be confusing.

Yet, the concept of carbon neutrality is important in public policy efforts to address climate change and potentially affects the forest-based industry, depending on how carbon neutrality is understood and applied. To the extent forest products and biomass are treated as carbon neutral, policies will tend Summary of the Forest Solutions Group’s recommendations on biomass carbon neutrality to favor their development and use, for example as a source of bioenergy or “green” building materials. To the extent they are not treated as neutral, policies may disfavor their use or impose costs to measure, track, or control sources that limit their practical application. These policies can affect traditional as well as emerging uses of forest products and biomass.

This issue brief is divided into two parts. The first describes the recommendations of the Forest Solutions Group on how to understand biomass carbon neutrality. The second part consists of Technical Background material that examines the issues related to the determination of biomass carbon neutrality and how they relate to forest carbon in particular. The aim of the Technical Background material is to help the reader understand the debate as it relates to forest-based biomass.

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