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Colorful forests against climate change

Forest fires in Brandenburg, too much drought, dead wood - the German forest is making headlines this summer. In an interview, Georg Schirmbeck, President of the German Forestry Council (DFWR), explains the role of forests in the fight against climate change.

Mr. Schirmbeck, what can forestry do to prevent forest fires like the one in Treuenbrietzen, Brandenburg?

First of all, it is important: New developments in the forest cannot be made in one summer or one year. Forestry is the task of generations. The forests as we know them today were planted by our grandparents after the First and Second World Wars. In the 1950s, the timber shortage was great. At that time, the large monocultures with fast-growing spruce trees were created. That was wrong from today's point of view.

What must the forest of today and tomorrow look like?

Generally speaking: We need more colorful forests. A more colorful forest is more climate-resistant, for example, because it is more likely to be able to stop a fire. However, there is no "success formula" here that we can apply to all forests. What is right in Brandenburg may be wrong in the Allgäu. Site conditions such as soil, water, temperatures and light play an important role here. In forestry, we therefore have to think multidimensionally. We try things out on trial plots and learn from the living object. Our successors in three generations will then know whether we are right with our solutions.

What role does forestry play in the fight against climate change?

Without forestry and forests, the CO2 reductions planned by policymakers cannot be implemented. First of all, we need to see the forest in its entire life cycle.

Colorful forests grow, absorb carbon dioxide over a long growing season, and then need to be transformed into long-lasting products to further sequester the CO2. Thus, the forest makes a major contribution here. The most important topic for the future, however, is building with wood. If we continue to build as we do today, we will not reach our CO2 target. Cement does not have the reputation of being a climate killer for nothing.

Do we actually have enough domestic wood for all the buildings in Germany?

If we use our wood properly, we can. It can be done, but not in one night. Here, too, we have already done a lot of research and gained a lot of knowledge. In Baden-Württemberg, 45 percent of all new houses are already timber houses. The Berlin timber construction project to be built on the site of the former Tegel Airport is such a positive example. We need more pilot projects like this. The more wood is used in construction, the more economical it will be. What we also need, of course, are skilled workers like carpenters. There's a shortage there at the moment.

What is your opinion of the energy crisis? The prices for firewood have risen very sharply.

That's true. My reputation in my home village has grown. My neighbors all hope that they can still get firewood from me. The bad news is that heatable firewood is out. There is nothing left. Accordingly, foresters get a good price for the wood. However, we need this price to compensate for the large losses caused by the bark beetle. But the energy crisis will not be solved by wood alone. What we cut down this year must first dry out before it can be sold on the market as firewood. The work in the forest is simply not short-term, but designed to last for generations.

The German Forestry Council (DFWR) will be at the International Green Week from January 20 to 29, 2023, to inform visitors about forestry in Germany.

Georg Schirmbeck, President of the German Forestry Council

Georg Schirmbeck, President of the German Forestry Council

Georg Schirmbeck has been president of the German Forestry Council since 2007 and a member of the board of the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. since November 2009. The German Forestry Council (DFWR) gives forestry a voice. It promotes the interests and concerns of sustainable forestry and the preservation of forests for present and future generations. As a directly elected member of parliament (CDU) in the Osnabrück-Land constituency, Georg Schirmbeck was a member of the German Bundestag from 2002 to 2013.

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