UK needs twice as much forest – and 40k new forestry jobs

16 year olds who’ve just had their GCSE results and are wondering what to do next might be interested in following up the idea that the UK could see the creation of up to 40K new jobs in forestry and in primary wood processing (work in timber haulage, sawmills, pulp mills and wood based panel mills).

This prediction is made in the recently-published report, Zero Carbon Britain – Rethinking the Future (ZCB RTF), from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.

According to their calculations, even if the UK does everything possible to reduce all its carbon emissions to zero, there will still be a need to increase the amount of carbon stored in land and plants.

This means more forestry and more wood processing. And more jobs in these sectors.

Some post-GCSE level 2 Forestry Diploma courses take students with 4 or more Grade E GCSEs, while level 3 Diplomas are likely to require 4 or more Grade C GCSEs, including English, Maths or Science.

Reforestation and more use of wood in building and infrastructure

ZCB RTF reckons that reforestation and increased use of wood-based products will be essential, in order to store more carbon in the land and plants. It proposes that the UK should:

  • double the forested area of the UK – leaving one third of it unharvested, which will provide more space for biodiversity and for people to enjoy the woodland
  • harvest more timber to use in buildings and infrastructure – far more wood would be used in construction
  • convert waste wood either into biochar or leave it in ‘silo stores’ – landfill waste that is quickly capped with soil, in order to stop decomposition and emission of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas)
  • restoring 50% of our peatlands (an important carbon sink that never fills up – because it goes on absorbing carbon as more peat is formed – and an important habitat for biodiversity)

The harvested area of the forests would divide into about one third planted for Short Rotation Forestry, to be harvested for wood materials and to produce biomass for heating; and the rest would be harvested for wood over a longer time frame, based on the full growth of the trees.

Mopping up excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Reforestation and increased use of wood in building and infrastructure would help to mop up the excess carbon dioxide that’s been accumulating in the atmosphere over the last couple of hundred years, from the industrial use of fossil fuels. ZCB RTF reckons it’s also necessary  because we don’t yet have the technologies or processes to replace all the activities that emit greenhouse gases (GHGs).

So, if the UK is to decarbonise – and really, there is no “if” about it, we have to, in order to lessen climate change that is already happening – there will be more jobs in forestry and primary wood production.

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