The Climate Change Act 2008 sets a legally binding target for reducing total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Taking 1990 as the benchmark, it commits the UK to a
reduction of at least 80% by 2050. A framework of five-year carbon targets has been set, which includes a 34% reduction by 2020. In Scotland, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets legally binding emissions reduction targets of 80% by 2050, together with an interim target of a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020. Measures to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts (see Box 4.2) are high priorities for the UK Government and the devolved administrations.Sustainable wood products can contribute to climate
change mitigation through their use as substitutes for less sustainable materials. For example, in construction, timber can be used in many situations instead of energy-intensive materials such as concrete and steel. As fuel, wood can provide a valuable substitute for fossil fuels; although wood releases carbon dioxide when it is burned, an equivalent amount has been sequestered from the atmosphere as the trees grew. In this way, woodfuel derived from sustainable forests, or from short rotation crops such as coppice, can be seen as close to carbon neutral. Harvesting forest residues such as leaves and branches also represents a potential source of woodfuel, providing the practice does not deplete carbon stocks or site productivity over the long term (see the UKFS Guidelines on Forests and Climate Change for more information). Land management activities such as forestry and agriculture are likely to be among the first to feel the effects of a changing climate. The challenge for forestry is to adapt to new threats and new opportunities while still maintaining sustainable forests and woodlands. The first response to the threat of climate change was to concentrate on mitigation – to try to stop it happening.
However, with the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continuing to increase rapidly and climate models predicting more rapid rates of change, the need
for adaptation strategies has become evident. This shift of emphasis means that forest managers have to consider the ways in which forestry will have to cope with change as
well as how it can help the drive to reduce emissions.