The sustainable and effective consumption of wood fibre needs to be at the heart of the circular economy and government policy, including on bioenergy, to meet projected demand for wood-based products. The cascading use of wood approach is important to leverage the full value of virgin fibre in order to reduce the pressure on the world’s forests. 

The cascading use of wood principle sets out to maximise the value society gains from the world’s forests through the complementary use of virgin and recycled fibre. Wood fibre should first be used to make high-value products like furniture, packaging and fine papers before it is reused, recycled and finally burnt for energy generation. This realises the full value and potential wealth creation of forests, supporting livelihoods associated with the sustainable use of forest products.

Based on the cascading use of wood principle, wood used for paper-making is 2.38 times more resource-efficient than simple energy generation with the same amount of wood.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive set a binding target of 20% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. To achieve this, EU countries have committed to reaching their own national renewables targets. EU countries have agreed on a new renewable energy target of at least 27% of EU’s final energy consumption by 2030, as part of the EU’s energy and climate goals for 2030.

Substantial subsidies for producers of renewable energy have encouraged a new type of biomass business in some European countries.

A number of wood-products industries have expressed concern over the distorting effect of subsidies for biomass energy on the market for the raw material on which they dependWe are also not in favour of direct use of wood as an energy source. We recognise biomass as a renewable energy source in principle, but almost half of Europe’s renewable energy consumption now comes from woody biomass, significantly increasing the demand for wood and additional pressure on the world’s forests. In effect, there is a shift away from the principle of the cascading use of wood.

Published in 2018 the European Commission’s “Guidelines on cascading use of biomass with selected good practice examples on woody biomass” ignore the firm call documented in the revised Renewable Energy Directive to avoid raw material market distortions. Through the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), we continue to support the view that wood should be primarily used for high-quality products and not burnt for bioenergy.

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Last update: 16 April 2021