A conversation with Duncan Brack
by: Oscar Crespo Pinillos
Duncan works as a freelance environmental policy analyst and advisor, previously he worked for fifteen years for Chatham House, one of the World’s most influential think tanks as well as special advisor to the Secretary of Energy and Climate Change during the coalition government in the UK. His areas of expertise include several forestry topics such as biomass and commodities and wood products trade, illegal logging and procurement and trade policies for wood products.
He was commissioned by the UNFF secretariat with writing a report on Sustainable consumption and production of forest products. This document is a background analytical study identifying the main producers, consumers and sources of demand for wood products.
China ranks first for many of these categories, being the largest importer of wood products and the largest consumer of sawn wood, wood panels and paper products. For wood pellets used for bioenergy the European Union, specially the UK, is the largest market. In our conversation Duncan pointed out that in 2016 alone the Drax power station consumed 23% of the world’s wood pellets, this power plant generates 7% of the electricity consumed in the UK.
The report points out that about 60% of the World’s forests are used to a certain extent for the production of wood and other non-timber forest products. About half of the demand for wood comes from its use as fuel and about the other half for the production of wood products.
As Duncan points out demand of wood products is predicted to increase as this is highly correlated with changes in income. The recession had a significant impact over the trade of wood products, however, exports quickly recovered, in special for some goods such as pulp and paper products. To meet this growing demand we need strategies to fight illegal logging, support sustainable forestry practices as well as the promotion of the use of long-lived forest products versus other materials with a higher carbon impact.
Duncan believes in the importance of forest certification systems, acknowledging as well, the large burden that has been placed upon them as they were never designed as a market access tool, but more as a market premium label.
He points out that some key actions include the introduction of policies to support legally and sustainably sourced wood products at the consumer and corporate level. On this end he considers that EUTR (EU Timber Regulation) will be seen, ten years from now, as a success story as we are already starting to see examples of its effectivity after its approval in 2013.
One idea could be the replication of this legislation applied to agricultural commodities trade for products such as soy or palm oil as some of the existing certifications aren’t being that effective. This would be, however, as he points out a much more difficult process as it would be faced by fierce opposition by some countries for which the trade of this products is a fundamental part of their economy and “governments, in general, tend to think that trade is more important than the environment”.
Other aspects mentioned in the report and his presentation on Tuesday May 8th at UNFF13 include the need of reforms on forest and land use legislation to include clarification on land tenure issues, the improvement of forest governance and law enforcement and greater protection for critical areas of forests. As well as support for the development of sound markets for payments for ecosystem services.
Over the past years he has worked in-depth on woody biomass and its use to produce electricity and biofuels as well as several other topics related with forestry and the environment.
Follow Duncan at: @DuncanBrack.
Oscar Crespo Pinillos is pursuing a Master of Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He studied or worked around forestry in Latin America, Scandinavia, Southern Europe and the United States.