CEPI comments on the discussion document ‘Paper Vapour – the climate impact of paper consumption’ from the European Environmental Paper Network

Position paper | 18 Oct.2013

CEPI comments on the discussion document ‘Paper Vapour – the climate impact of paper consumption’ from the European Environmental Paper Network


The European Environmental Paper Network (EEPN) presented preliminary findings of their Paper Vapour report. The report aims to show that paper has a large climate impact and it questions the carbon neutrality of wood fibre. The Confederation of European Paper Industry (CEPI) analysed the report. CEPI advises a major reworking of the draft report before publishing final findings. There are several reasons for this:

I. The data do not match the sources referenced

The report concludes that pulp and paper industry emissions are 7 kg of vapour per kg produced leading to total emissions that are larger than those of waste and landfilling, chemicals, oil and gas, fuel and power, steel and aluminium and iron combined.

It uses data from the World Resource Institute (WRI). However, the report does not show the original WRI data for all sectors. In table 2 a new figures was inserted for the percentage of the pulp and paper sector. In the original WRI publication the emissions from pulp, paper and print are set to be 1.1% (http://www.wri.org/chart/world-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2005). Instead a number seven times higher than the original was included based on separate calculations. The report lists this fact only on page 11, which is misleading. Either WRI figures should be used entirely to be able to compare them correctly or all sector figures need to be re-calculated on an equal basis. At the moment the figures in table 2 do not add up to 100% any longer; they exceed that figure.

2. The underlying data are unlikely at best

The emissions of industry sectors are well documented by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA publications on industrial efficiency and CO2 emissions show that 70% of industrial emissions are emitted by three sectors: iron and steel, non-metallic minerals (cement) and chemicals and petrochemicals. The direct emissions from the pulp, paper and print industry together add up to 189 Mtonnes in 2005 at global level, 2.8% the of industrial emissions (IEA Energy Technology Perspectives). These data are based on national country statistics. EU steel sector emissions in EU ETS published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) are around 140 Mtonnes in non-crisis years, four times that of the 35 Mt from the European pulp and paper industry according to EEA statistics.

The IEA data divided by the global production figures used in the report (328 Mt pulp and paper produced), lead to a direct emission of 189/328 = 0.58 t/t as a global average, compared to the 0.34 t/t for Europe. These are direct emissions only. When adding indirect emissions from electricity in line with European data (0.34 vs. 0.10, CEPI sustainability report based on EU ETS and energy consumption statistics), the number used for direct production emissions in the report is 100% higher than reality.

Vice versa, the weighted average of 1.51 t/t used in the EEPN report would lead to 546 Mt global emissions for the paper industry, compared to the realistic 189 Mt from the IEA statistics.

3. The combination of data leads to mistakes

In table 1, data from a multitude of sources are combined resulting in an altered total figure. Similarly, the combination of different data leads to mistakes. An example is ‘Debarking and Chipping’. US data from a single study are used in the report in this instance. The emissions (0.45 t/t) are higher than the overall EU average production emissions. Moreover, debarking and chipping for pulp production is included in pulp production statistics, because they are part of our production process.

Wood chipping in the US, meant for exports of bio-energy, is delivering wood to the power sector, not to the pulp and paper industry. Additionally, a Carbon mass balance credit is added without any further explanation. Again a number is used higher than the real and verified emissions from paper production today. The source is the author of the report himself. CEPI believes a clearer explanation is needed to understand how these figures have been calculated.

4. The key number is not explained

A crucial discussion is missing from the report, linking forest accounting with the number 6.83 t/t in the first section. This number doubles the emission calculation made in the report, without explanations on how it is derived. The source seems to be the grey picture on page 5, which is not referenced properly. It seems to relate to a virgin paper production cycle. It is also unclear to what the percentages in the picture refer to. Yet this picture seems to be the basis for the entire allocation of biomass emissions, without any further explanation. The conclusions of the report are very difficult to assess, as the calculations included are contrary to current standards in life cycle accounting, monitoring or reporting rules in legal frameworks and the UNFCCC accounting rules

Carbon neutrality is an issue in emission accounting, based on the UNFCCC accounting rules, including LULUCF. The emissions of carbon emitted when burning wood for energy are calculated in the national forestry (LULUCF) accounts, enabling a zero factor to be used for biomass.

The report quotes in many cases from an article in the Science magazine and the discussions in the USA. The so called accounting error in forest carbon accounting as referred to in the Science articel is an issue for non-Kyoto countries. However, it is clear that in Europe, having signed the Kyoto protocol and following the agreements reached in Durban, proper forest accounting is taking place. It is based on the LULUCF legislation and a zero emission factor from the EU Monitoring, reporting and verification guidelines. Around 80% of all wood used in the European industry is coming from EU forests and the pulp from known and established planted forests.

But the core of the matter remains, if the wood used is sourced from sustainably managed sources one cannot double count carbon stock, flow approaches and forest and biomass emissions, as seems to be the case in this study. In Europe forest carbon stock has been growing for years, and proper forest accounting is taking place.

5. The report compares apples and pears

The report makes comparisons between the pulp and paper sector and other sectors in society, to emphasise the size of emissions calculated. The comparisons are flawed for a number of reasons. Some were mentioned before, additionally, the constructed pulp and paper LCA style number in the report is compared to non LCA data of other sectors. The basis for the calculations are completely different. In addition, the word “direct” emissions is used incorrectly in several cases throughout the report, not in line with scope 1 and scope 2 emissions normally used in reporting on industrial emissions.

6. Old and US data are used for a European study

The paper was commissioned by the European paper network and is intended for the European discussion, but only two of the sources are European and no European data has been used. CEPI strongly feels the data should also be European and reflect the real situation in the European production and consumption of paper and board. The current discussion paper does not. To address imports of paper into Europe for consumption, a weighted average can be calculated. But the fact remains that the vast majority of paper used in Europe is produced in Europe from European raw materials.

7. Sources are unclear

Last but not least, the study should avoid quoting background studies made by the same author, without further references. This leaves figures untraceable. Nine out of the 11 data used are either (co)sourced to Jim Ford, Climate for Ideas or EPN. There are many more public studies and materials available that could have been used, providing additional data and references.

In a nutshell, verification of the conclusions made in the report based on the calculations, data and sources presented is not possible. The 7 kg of paper vapour is not backed by the material presented. CEPI recommends a complete overhaul of the report to be credible.
For more information, please contact Marco Mensink at m.mensink@cepi.org

Download here