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Europeans tour Southeast forests, discuss pellet supply chains

By Sue Retka Schill | October 31, 2013

Meeting the sustainability requirements of the growing market for pellet exports to Europe was the focus of a workshop held in Savannah, Ga., Oct. 23-24. Organized by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and the International Energy Agency Bioenergy Tasks 40 and 43, the workshop brought together over 60 experts and stakeholders representing conservation organizations, government agencies, universities, and the forest and renewable energy industries from nine different countries.

The Savannah workshop explored the potential application of sustainability criteria being developed by European governments and industry within U.S. forests. Other sponsors of the dialogue included the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc., Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, E.ON, Georgia Forestry Commission, Weyerhaeuser, MeadWestvaco Foundation and Plum Creek.

Representatives of U.S. pellet producers, European purchasers, conservation organizations and U.S., Canadian, and European policymakers met over two days to analyze and debate sustainability issues. The first day’s session moved from presentations covering a broad discussion of sustainability to a description of forest management in the Southeast and looking at the supply chain in pellet production.

On the second day, participants toured industrial timberlands certified to SFI’s Forest Management standard, a nonindustrial family forest and the Georgia Biomass LLC pellet mill. The field tour showcased several tools to mitigate environmental risks along the biomass supply chain.

Pinchot and the IEA task forces will release a report in early December summarizing the workshop and identifying opportunities for aligning U.S. forestry systems and European Union sustainability criteria, said Pinchot project director Brian Kittler. The project team will also use feedback gathered at the workshop to provide recommendations to SFI, which is currently undergoing a standards revision process.

"Bringing European biomass consumers and U.S. biomass producers together has made it abundantly clear that there is a need to align sustainability criteria with the realities and complexities of North American forest management, and to that end, the sort of dialogue fostered by this event is essential," said Martin Junginger of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the IEA Bioenergy Task 40.

“This dialogue focused on finding practical solutions for ensuring that the benefits of robust markets for forest biomass can further advance our nation’s conservation achievements,” said Al Sample, president of the Pinchot Institute. “The Pinchot Institute is committed to building understanding of the multiple perspectives on sustainable sourcing, sustainable forestry and greenhouse gas balance.”

Presentations and other event materials can be found here

 

 

 

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