Climate change debate intensifies

25 February 2020

Climate change is ratcheting up the agenda and we’re hearing more talk about it from ordinary traders now.

Whatever you think about the subject, people are beginning to look at what the potential current and future impacts may be on timber product trading.

Contacting sawmillers and importers for our Baltics Region Update in this issue, climate change came up in conversation.

That’s because of a mild winter so far in the Baltics and wider region. The absence of hard frosty ground is making it difficult to get heavy felling machinery into the forest to harvest trees and that is having a knock-on effect on log supplies.

Over in Germany there have been two very hot summers in a row and bark beetles have caused huge damage to water-starved and weakened trees. Spruce, pine, beech and oak trees have been affected and even the German army has had to help with clearance work.

At the International Hardwood Conference last year beech and ash were reported to be particularly affected by climate change-attributed drought stress in central Europe.

The German government regards the issue so important it is allocating it €1bn to cope with immediate issues and develop longer-term “climate-smart management strategies”.

Research in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters says European summers and winters will only grow hotter in the coming years as climate change accelerates.

Time will tell whether scientists are ultimately right or not, but in the meantime evidence is building that unusual weather patterns are affecting raw material streams.

Which brings me onto the subject of timber prices. UK softwood importers were battered last year when prices fell through the floor, but the talk now is of imminent price rises.

Speaking to Baltic sawmillers and UK importers there is a clear opinion the bottom of the market has been reached and any further price reduction is unsustainable. A better market balance and potential shortages in specifications are likely to mean price rises before Q2.

This and the general air of increased confidence since the General Election is a welcome shot in the arm for the trade after such an uncertain 2019.

As well as market updates, in this issue of TTJ we bring you our annual Sector Focus on roofing with input from the Trussed Rafter Association, while for our timber cladding/shingles Sector Focus we look at products, trends and regulation, including a viewpoint from TDCA head of operations Janet Sycamore.

We also cover how a French company has developed a transparent wood with applications in the automotive sector. And, we look at how virtual technology is helping sawmills commission new equipment and train staff.