Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA) is a not-for-profit company providing national, integrated research and development services to the Australian forest and wood products industry. A recent innovation funding boost and a new approach to the assessment of carbon deposits in native forests are key stories of interest to the furnishing community.

The Australian Government’s decision to match voluntary contributions to Forest and Wood Products Australia could lead to an increase of $9.4 million investment in innovation. The decision was announced in conjunction with the Government’s 2015 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and commits Government to co-investing up to $4.7 million over four years, matched by industry funds, for additional research and development. This could create a total pool of $9.4 million.

“This is a great announcement and ratifies one of the key recommendations of the Productivity Commission into rural research and development,” said Ric Sinclair, FWPA’s managing director. “I would like to thank the Assistant Minister, Senator Ruston, and Minister for Agriculture and Water, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce, for taking this step and I am confident it will be warmly welcomed across the forest and wood products sector.

FWPA currently receives matching payments from the Australian Government for investments in research and development received from a compulsory levy. This announcement allows matching voluntary contributions for industry investments. FWPA is forecast to receive $3.5 million in matching payments from the Government for this financial year. If industry volunteers additional funds into projects managed by FWPA, this would be matched by Government, creating a boost to forest industry research that could improve raw material for furniture production or create new products.

Greenhouse Gases Stored in Native Forests

Australian climate change policy has largely overlooked the role of forestry and secondary processors in moderating climate change. Recent research funded by FWPA assessed the true balance of greenhouse gases emitted and stored in native forests managed for both production and conservation in NSW and Victoria. It considered all the key elements of the carbon cycle in forests and in harvested wood products. The study found that using steel or concrete results in emissions 10 times greater than for the use of hardwood poles and that using hardwoods from unsustainably managed tropical forests results in emissions 20 times greater than using hardwood from sustainably managed forests or plantations. The study also demonstrated that one way to enhance the greenhouse gas outcomes of production forestry is with the increased use of biomass for bioenergy. Increased use of forest and sawmill residues for renewable energy generation typically displaces the use of fossil fuels, resulting in a net greenhouse benefit. Furniture retailers would also benefit from advising customers of the environmental value of wood products at the point of sale.