Forestry veterans spearhead global coalition

Friday 22 Sep 2023

In a move to secure a place in the emerging carbon market, two Australian forestry sector veterans have launched the International Sustainable Forestry Coalition (ISFC). The coalition will tackle climate finance and market mechanisms, pushing for coherent and implementable solutions.

Comprising 10 founding companies, managing nine million hectares of forest across 27 countries, the coalition will lean on the United Nations and COP-related processes that are critical for transforming forestry into an investible asset class.

Set to lead the ISFC from its London office is Ross Hampton, a seasoned Australian forestry sector lobbyist. Hampton said, “We are facing a world at the moment which has been designed by accountants and extractive industries and others, who don’t understand many of the permutations, the complications, the interconnectedness of the way that forestry operates”.

“At the moment it’s a dog’s breakfast. Many of these processes are going to be impossible for the really big capital players to work with unless we can get some fungibility and consistency across the world.” Forests are slated to assume nearly one-third of the decarbonisation effort in the coming decades. This entails replacing plastics with wood in the circular economy, and it will become feedstock for biomass, while forests will serve as carbon offsets and credits.

During the shift to net-zero, forestry feedstock may need to double. But if half of that comes from new plantations – with the rest from productivity growth – then the industry still needs investment to plant two million hectares per year for the next two decades. The wood-based biomass sector will also have to triple in size.

David Brand, an industry executive who will chair the ISFC, emphasised the urgent need to scale up solutions. Yet despite actually having a solution that can be scaled, forestry has remained largely unrepresented in global discussions. As Hampton pointed out, "almost every commodity has global bodies for collective representation. We've lacked that”. Brand attributes this absence to the forestry sector's traditional fragmentation, which shifted when China emerged as a “vortex for wood products from around the world”.

The ISFC plans to present its case at upcoming UN meetings in New York and the COP summit in Dubai in November. Major global companies like Japan’s Oji and Finland’s Stora Enso are among the coalition's members, yet its leadership remains distinctly Australian. "Maybe there is something about Australians, often thinking that there is no door you can't unlock if you play with the lock long enough," said Hampton.

By championing a unified, global voice, the coalition seeks to harness an industry set to become a vital part of a market already worth US$100 billion. It aims to fulfil the industry's potential, not only as an asset class but as a crucial part of global decarbonisation efforts.


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