""A certificate that documents this amount of CO2 is of huge value as a marketing tool." - Matthias Eisfeld"
The CO2 Bank is a web-based database set up by the forestry and timber industry to document the greenhouse gas reductions that can be achieved by opting for timber products. Since the launch of the database in January 2009, more than 370,000 tons of CO2 have been saved through projects documented in the CO2 Bank. This corresponds to the emissions of 40,000 people living in Germany.
Matthias Eisfeld is the managing director of the CO2 Bank and has worked for many years in the timber industry. He is passionate about climate change and sustainable resources, such as wood.
Pollmeier Magazine: Mr. Eisfeld, what is the idea behind the CO2 Bank? CO2 Bank: When we talk about reducing our CO2 emissions, the focus is normally solar power and electric cars. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. However, the biggest potential for CO2 reductions lies in our forests and timber, as they act as carbon sinks while emitting oxygen. By using timber along its entire lifespan through cascade use, we can make use of the enormous capacity of reducing CO2 emissions that comes with this natural product. In the CO2 Bank, we document what can be achieved. In our web-based database, we record the CO2 emission reductions that have been achieved by using timber.
Pollmeier Magazine: You only do this for projects that are registered with the CO2 Bank. Why should architects, joineries, etc. come to you? CO2 Bank: There are many good reasons – from political to image, scientific to marketing. When a builder informs us of a new timber-built house, we first ask how much timber and what sort of material was used. This allows us to calculate the carbon stored in the material. Depending on the project, this might be up to 100 tons of CO2. Eventually, the builder is presented with a certificate, for instance during the official opening. The figures are generally astonishing and tend to catch the eye of the wider public. The certificate shows in detail how and why this reduction was achieved. With 100 tons of CO2, we are talking about the emissions of an average car driving 650,000 km, or 17 times around the world. Timber home owners can be proud of what they have achieved, and others might be inspired to take similar actions to protect our climate.
Pollmeier Magazine: What is the global significance of timber when it comes to CO2 emissions? Does it really matter? CO2 Bank: Wood plays a huge role, as it is the only material that can help reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere. We must however put things in context: forests have the capacity to reduce CO2 by only about 10 to 20 percent. The rest remains always in the atmosphere. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is still increasing.
Pollmeier Magazine: Wood cannot only keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, it also eliminates emissions that would arise, if a different material with high CO2 emissions such as steel would be used. Is this substitution effect taken into account in your calculations? CO2 Bank: No, we cannot do this, for various reasons. We also operate in Switzerland and will soon cover Austria. At the moment, we are still working with others to determine the local substitution factors. This means that we cannot yet take them into account. Our figures are thus extremely conservative, which makes them however even more credible.
Pollmeier Magazine: Can you image to move from a bank to an emission trader? CO2 Bank: We would love to promote such arrangements as a political tool. In Switzerland, pressure groups are proposing to use CO2 bank balances for tax credits. Figures of € 50 per ton of CO2 are seen as a starting point. To return to our timber house and a CO2 emission reduction of 100,000 tons, the owner of would save € 5000 in taxes. Considering the grants and tax credits currently available for electric cars, this sound quite modest. Extending the system to include trading is certainly also an option.
We must promote timber as a viable resource in all industries. – Matthias Eisfeld
Pollmeier Magazine: Let’s jump forward to 2026. What will our homes be made of? How will they differ from the ones built today? CO2 Bank: I would love to see a wider discussion about the sustainable use of materials, beyond the building trade. Many engineers and machine manufacturers are automatically opting for steel, simply because that is the way things were always done. In many cases, a material mix based on resource efficiency would make more sense. Look at the famous Spruce Goose, the largest aeroplane in the world – made in wood. Or the Nios electric car. Also made from wood. I think that, to fully exploit the capacity of wood as a carbon sink, we must begin to use this renewable material in all industries. Pollmeier Magazine: Thank you very much for your time.