Forestry Commission logo

How forestry helps address climate change

Forests help us address climate change by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

They do this by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), using the carbon (C) to produce sugars for tree growth and releasing the oxygen (O2) back into the air. As trees grow, they store carbon in their leaves, twigs and trunk, and in the soil around them. 

Globally, we have the capacity to increase the amount of carbon stored by forests by reducing the amount of deforestation in developing countries, and by converting non-forested areas to forest. Deforestation caused by the unsustainable harvesting of timber and the conversion of forests to other land-uses, accounts for almost 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.


Movie: Emissions by sector

The forests and woodlands in Britain have a role to play too. They can be managed as a sustainable source of wood – an alternative and less polluting energy source to fossil fuels, and a low-energy construction material.

There are six key actions that should be taken now to protect what we have, and to make sure we can adapt to the new threats and opportunities that climate change will bring while still maintaining and expanding a sustainable forest and woodland resource.

  • Protect what we already have

  • Reduce deforestation

  • Restore the world’s forest cover

  • Use wood for energy

  • Replace other materials with wood

  • Plan to adapt to our changing climate

If we get this right, the world’s forests will contribute significantly to climate change mitigation. They will also benefit national economies and the well-being of current and future generations.

Movie: Action plan

Key facts:

  • climate change is a global problem

  • carbon dioxide emissions are the main cause of climate change

  • deforestation accounts for almost 20 per cent of annual global emissions of carbon dioxide

Key message:

  • There are two ways to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

  • We can reduce the amount we produce or we can develop ways to capture and store it. Trees have the unique ability to do both.


Last updated: 1st November 2016

What's of interest

Communicating climate change: does it work? - an evaluation of the impacts of climate change interpretation at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum. View the report

Related pages