IFN - press briefing live from interzum:
Climate protection is now -
Wood is ingenious -
Veneer is the trend material 2021

Axel Groh, chairman of the board of directors of Initiative Furnier + Natur e.V., on the occasion of the IFN digital press roundtable, on May 6, 2021.

Currently, many laws, amendments and activities are coming together to give our material wood a strong tailwind. Thus, what was the dream of environmental activists a few years ago is now a reality: a climate law for the European Union. At the end of April 2021, the EU launched the first climate law for Europe. This makes it legally binding that the European Union must convert its 27 economies to CO2-free industries, CO2-free electricity and heat generation, electric and hydrogen cars, and climate-friendly construction and agriculture over the next 30 years. At least 55 percent CO2 reduction is mandated by 2030 compared to 1990. After the U.S. had in the meantime withdrawn from the Paris climate protection agreement, the new U.S. administration with its President Joe Biden also sent a clear signal for climate protection on "Earth Day" by re-entering and doubling the original targets. At the virtual climate conference, 40 other heads of state and government also committed to vigorous action against global warming. China also wants to become climate neutral by 2060.

From the veneer industry's perspective, these intentions and laws are a good start. What is good about them is that they can be regularly improved, because without improvement and thus speed, the maximum 2°C global warming cannot be achieved by 2100. Another controversial aspect of the EU climate law is the inclusion of natural sinks. For some, the inclusion of CO2 storage in forests, soils and peatlands is an incentive for more sustainable forestry, for others it is an artificial improvement of the overall balance. The fact is, Europe's forests need to be restored to a better condition. Their climate performance will be increased as a result. Meanwhile, the interaction of drought, storms, fires and harmful insects has triggered a new forest dieback. Spruce stands are the main ones affected, but more and more deciduous trees are also being affected. Forest transformation is an ecological necessity and a forestry opportunity. Climate-appropriate forests should and can then also supply as much useful wood as possible. As is well known, increased wood utilization is also part of the implementation of the climate strategy. The veneer industry therefore also welcomes the historic decision of the Federal Constitutional Court to tighten the German climate protection law adopted in 2019. Things must move faster in order to protect the civil liberties of future generations. We must start reducing greenhouse gases now. Our freedoms today must not take away the freedoms of future generations. We welcome yesterday's announcement to accelerate climate protection now.
Part of the package of measures in the Green Deal and new climate law is that the EU will direct more money into sustainable technologies and activities. This so-called EU taxonomy is also intended to contribute to a sustainable EU financial system from the end of 2021. But here, too, the interest groups do not agree on the "sustainability" defined there. While environmental groups consider the industrial burning of wood to be harmful to the climate, others consider the production of bioenergy to be inherently CO2 neutral. Regardless of interest groups or states, the material use of wood is nevertheless preferable to any thermal use. This is also confirmed by the climate report of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO): In 2020, the concentration of greenhouse gases - despite the pandemic-related economic slump - reached a new high. Last but not least, the veneer industry is looking forward to the results of the first nationwide "Citizens' Council for Climate Policy" founded at the end of April under the patronage of our former Federal President Horst Köhler. Here, 160 citizens, including so-called climate critics, are being asked for ideas and solutions for the climate. The results are to be presented to all parties in the Bundestag this fall. We believe in the inventiveness of people and see in this action also a solidarity with the global Fridays For Future movement. This has made it increasingly clear to us since 2018 that people expect a more effective climate policy with more sustainability. For their part, people have recognized that they themselves bear responsibility. There has finally been movement in climate policy. That is entirely in our interest.

Wood is ingenious
Germany has about 33 percent forest area with about 90 billion trees. This means that there are 1,084 trees for every one of Germany's approximately 83 million citizens. In Austria there are 384 trees per person and in Switzerland 66. Wood is one of the oldest materials used by man and there is much to suggest that wood may become the most important material of the 21st century. All studies agree: from a climate protection perspective, using forests is preferable to not using them. This is because substitution effects affect the overall potential for carbon storage much more than the storage capacity of forests alone. Incidentally, we have known for 220 years that wood pulls CO2 from the atmosphere and stores carbon. Forests are the green lungs of our planet and act as a carbon sink in the climate system. In order to relieve the atmosphere of the stored CO2 in the long term, it is important to continue to manage the forest sustainably, to reforest with tree species adapted to the location, and to manufacture and distribute wood products - not only in Germany, but also globally. Twenty percent of the greenhouse gases emitted globally are caused by building with mineral building materials alone. The organic building material wood does not cause this. Wood is a valuable gift of evolution. With prudent behavior, buying wood products and switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, everyone can help slow climate change.

Timber harvesting high - qualities worse.
In 2019, the market volume for our ecologically sustainable material increased in many European countries and also in Germany. The figures from the Federal Statistical Office for 2020 are not yet available. However, we expect a significant drop in exports and declining sales figures in various sectors, especially in one of the key industries, automotive manufacturing. On the other hand, we were able to supply veneer very successfully in the first pandemic year in the furniture industry, in the furniture trade, in interior design and also in architectural projects. Also contributing to the 2020 success of our industry is a plethora of everyday to extravagant lifestyle products made of and with veneer. The veneer industry is not expecting a bad year in 2021 either. However, there are increased difficulties in our raw wood procurement.

In 2020, 80.4 million cubic meters of wood were harvested in German forests. This means that logging reached a new record level. As reported by the Federal Statistical Office, this development is due to increased forest damage as a result of insect infestation favored by drought and heat. This means that the felling of damaged timber has increased almost fivefold since 2017. Both the amount of damaged wood felling and its share of total felling amounting to almost three quarters.

Thus, due to climatic changes, there is reduced logging of high-value logs, which has dramatically decreased and will continue to decrease the amount of fresh logs available. This is mainly due to the fact that the forestry industry has to concentrate its labor capacities on felling so-called damaged timber. This is accompanied by an enormous loss of income for forest owners, above all for the state and local authorities. In addition, this year's harvest was characterized by the fact that the European procurement market was partially closed due to Corona. As a result, the veneer industry had to accept poorer and also more expensive qualities, especially in oak. All in all, the wood industry will also have to get used to additional price increases in some sub-sectors due to the increasing shortage. Thanks to the high added value of our veneer sector, we offer forest owners by far the highest prices for their trees and thus promote the sustainable use of individual trees. This is an important contribution to maintain stable, age-graded mixed forests and to manage them in a future-oriented, but also yield-oriented way. The most expensive objects and products that look like wood are made of veneer. Think of musical instruments, furniture, automotive, ships, airplanes, hotels, parliaments, libraries or concert halls.

Veneer is trend material 2021.
Veneer is the trend material 2021, it is sustainable, ecological and the most economical use of wood resource.
Oak is the best-selling veneer and still tops all other veneers. Oak veneer is particularly in demand in its natural color shades from light to medium brown. Rift cuts and qualities in beamed oak, in which knots, cracks and other natural intergrowths can be seen, are popular. It scores in the dark color spectrum, smoked oak. Less often in demand, but highly individual is the veneer of reddish-brown Mediterranean holm oak.

Due to their special origin and quality, moor oak veneers and veneers from Venetian "briccole", the long oak trunks where ships can dock in the lagoon, are also very popular. These are exposed to sea water, shells and worms for years, giving them their very special character with holes and passages. In the past, the oak logs were simply disposed of after about 25 years. Today, people appreciate their history, uniqueness and value.

In addition to oak, the light wood of maple, the medium to dark brown and elegant American walnut and the quiet and yellowish light birch are holding their own. Likewise, the demand for European ash veneer is growing and also the reddish sounding beech veneers are asserting themselves again more clearly in the market.

When it comes to exotic woods, there are quite a few endangered species that are fortunately protected today. These include, for example, rosewood, wenge or zebrawood. All veneer manufacturers are committed to their protection and preservation in the tropical forest. Our member companies can now faithfully reproduce the veneers of endangered tree species on poplar or lime wood. This means that these protected woods can continue to inspire with their natural beauty and be used on cabinets or sideboards in compliance with the law.

Another innovation is a veneer that is bonded to a textile backing and then laser cut. This creates a finely perforated and dynamic surface. This veneer is soft like leather, but vegan and sustainable. It is also suitable as a cover fabric for upholstered furniture.

There is a noticeable increase in demand from the international furniture industry for softwood veneers. Here it is larch, pine and fir that are increasingly being processed into veneer. This development shows the growing importance of genuine and ecological natural materials for end customers, even in the rather inexpensive furniture segment.
Veneer has a great future. It is the number one material choice for anyone who wants to be responsible.

The interzum @home.
The interzum is the "delivery room" for the furniture and furnishing industry, for screw, hardware, surface, for light in furniture, for scratch-resistant or antibacterial surfaces and for the classic, the carpaccio of wood, veneer. Under the IFN umbrella, nearly 20 international member companies will present their classic veneers, veneer products and novelties. The IFN member companies are:

  • Balti Spoon/Moehring-group
  • decospan
  • Europlac, S.R.O. - Röhr GmbH
  • Fritz Kohl GmbH & Co KG
  • Furwa Furnierkanten GmbH
  • HWB Furniere und Holzwerkstoffe GmbH
  • J. und A. Frischeis GmbH
  • Josef Grabner Furniere GmbH
  • Kirchgasser Furniere GmbH
  • Koch GmbH Furniere und Edelhölzer
  • Koppensteiner Furniere GmbH & Co. KG
  • Lubelski Fornir/Moehring-group
  • M. Kaindl OG
  • Roser AG
  • Schorn & Groh GmbH
  • Ulrich/IVC Group
  • Wehmeyer GmbH & Co KG
  • Wilfried Koch KG

Presence trade shows will come back, but the digital demand on all exhibitors and their products will remain. By participating in interzum @home, the veneer industry had decided to embrace the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic. After three days, we are satisfied with the digital networking and the new contacts.

Initiative Veneer + Nature (IFN)
The Initiative Furnier + Natur (IFN) e.V. was founded in 1996 by the German veneer industry and its partners. Today, it is supported by European companies from the veneer industry, trade and the veneer processing industry as well as trade associations of the wood industry. The aim of the association is to promote veneer as a natural all-rounder. The IFN is an international association which, in addition to German regular members, also has members from Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Estonia, Sweden and Slovenia.