Timber Tracking: Striking the Balance between Diversification & Harmonisation to Tackle Global Problems

Timber is a natural resource that is all around us in the form of solid wood, fibreboard or veneer in constructions, furniture, decorations, … or as pulp and paper products, or in summer times as charcoal on the BBQ. Sustainable use of timber starts with legal use of timber. Illegal logging doesn’t respect management plans, (inter)national regulations, or people’s needs. Therefore, the Global Timber Tracking Network was started in 2012 as a network of stakeholders involved in timber research, industry or governance. The aim of the GTTN is to operationalise timber tracking tools to help implement the current regulations concerning the trade in timber (for the EU that is the EUTR).

Timber tracking based on the inherent wood characteristics is the only way to be sure that wood or a wood product at the end of the supply chain is what the documents say it is, and is hence legal. There are currently 6 different timber tracking methods that can reveal species and/or geographic identity. Depending on the exact identification question, one method will be more suitable than the other. Therefore, an infogram was developed to give an overview of the current capacities of the different timber tracking tools. The guide links to a list of all experts in timber tracking, currently know of in the world.

The infographic of timber tracking tools creates the perfect base to discuss the gaps and opportunities for further developments in the field of wood identification. Two critical parts of the wood identification process, open for more advancements are the collection of reference samples and the data analysis. With global timber supply chains there is a need for harmonization of procedures to secure the reputation of the different wood identification tools and to facilitate collaborations. Also, a common language is essential for any collaboration and hence for further innovations. Therefore, it is important to investigate the current barriers of information flow and to evaluate how much information we miss if we only consider English language literature.

Website Global Timber Tracking Network: https://globaltimbertrackingnetwork.org/

For further information please contact Dr. Nele Schmitz:



Why is Decentralized Combined Heat and Power Production (CHP) strongly underutilised?

Technologies to implement cogeneration (or combined heat and power production (CHP)) to deliver both electricity and heat simultaneously are state of the art, but 70% (European Union) to 80% (worldwide) of the existing potential remains untapped. Challenges for more widespread adoption of decentralised CHP installations fall into three identified dimensions [1]:

  • Heat valorisation dimension
  • Technology dimension
  • Management dimension
Challenges in the implementation of combined heat and power production in a business environment [1]


[1] Kusch-Brandt, Sigrid: Common challenges in the implementation of decentralized combined heat and power production. Proceedings 18th International Multidisciplinary Scientific Geoconference SGEM 2018, Vol. 18, Energy and Clean Technologies, Issue 4.1, 2018, pp. 219-226

The publication is available here (pdf):

Common challenges in the implementation of decentralized combined heat and power production

A Wastewater Refinery: The Case of Qatar’s Wastewater

Significant quantities of valuable resources are embodied in Qatar’s wastewater, with potential to be recovered, explores the study of Alsheyab and Kusch-Brandt based on a mass flow analysis [1]. The proposed concept of a wastewater refinery combines wastewater treatment with advanced resource recovery [1]. In this concept, wastewater management is no longer mainly focused on achieving environmentally clean or “fit for purpose” treated wastewater, but instead aims to also generate value-added products. The study concludes that valorisation of organic constituents and the recovery of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfide should be given priority.


[1] Alsheyab, M.A.T.; Kusch-Brandt, S. Potential Recovery Assessment of the Embodied Resources in Qatar’s Wastewater. Sustainability 2018, 10, 3055. doi: 10.3390/su10093055

The publication in the journal Sustainability is available open access here:

Potential Recovery Assessment of the Embodied Resources in Qatar’s Wastewater

REN21 Renewables 2018 Global Status Report (GSR)

More renewables in the energy mix worldwide! Renewable power, in particular, continued to rapidly grow in the last year, and overall accounted for 70% of net additions to global power generating capacity in 2017. However, heating, cooling and transport fuel together account for about four fifths of global final energy demand; but they continue to lag far behind the power sector with view to more widespread implementation of renewables.

The 2018 GSR, as comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy worldwide, is available here on the website of REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century):

REN21 Renewables 2018 Global Status Report



Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR)

The 2017 edition of the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report, launched in June 2017 to provide a comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy, reveals that 2016 was another extraordinary year for renewable energy.

As of 2015, renewable energy provided 19.3% of global final energy consumption, of which 9.1% were traditional biomass and 10.2% modern renewables.

In the power sector, solar photovoltaics (47% of newly installed renewable power capacity in 2016) and wind (34% of newly installed renewable power capacity) were the most dynamic areas. Overall, by end of 2016, renewables covered 24.5% of global electricity demand.

2016 was the third year in a row where decoupling of economic growth and energy-related CO2 emissions occurred.

Despite good performance of renewables and significant advancement in the global renewable energy transition, further and faster progress is required. Some areas:

  • Although achieved progress in adoption of renewable energy is highly remarkable, it is not fast enough to reach the Paris Agreement goals.
  • Deployment of renewables for heating and cooling remains strongly underdeveloped.
  • Community-based renewable energy initiatives, which hold potential to make a vital contribution to speed the energy transition, now face less favourable frameworks compared to some years ago in several countries, resulting in slower pace of growth. As a positive trend, community-based schemes diversify their market activities, for example to also include storage and demand-side management.


The full report is available on the REN21 website:

Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR)


E-waste and GDP Closely Correlated – New publication

Assessment of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) generation against the gross domestic product (GDP) data from 50 countries of the pan-European region reveals a very high economic elasticity, indicating that WEEE and GDP are closely interlinked, regardless of the economic developmental stage of individual countries. In this context, GDP at purchasing power parity (GDP PPP) is a more meaningful measure.  In the pan-European region, an increase of 1000 international $ GDP PPP means an additional 0.5 kg WEEE is generated that requires management.


Read the full publication here (open access)


(Kusch, Sigrid; Hills, Colin D.: The link between e-waste and GDP – new insights from data from the pan-European region. Resources 6 (2), 2017, 16)


GTTN Call for Experts: Timber Tracking

Curbing illegal logging and timber trade – call for experts in timber tracking (from both supply & user side) to participate in working groups of the Global Timber Tracking Network (GTTN) to further operationalise and promote innovative timber tracking tools:

GTTN Call for Experts in Timber Tracking

The GTTN is comosing its working groups for the second phase, as described in the flyer (pdf):

GTTN Phase II: What? Who? How?


For further information about current timber tracking, GTTN activities, sustainable timber markets, contact Dr. Nele Schmitz:






The Global Timber Tracking Network – In Focus: Illegal Logging and the Associated Timber Trade

Illegal logging and the associated timber trade are a serious threat for precious timber species and for forests in general. It impacts environment (biodiversity loss, soil degradation, climate change) as well as economy (tax evasion, corruption, distortion of timber market).

Timber tracking systems do exist to check tree species and geographic origin of wood. The most common ones, however, can be manipulated as they are paper-based or via electronic tags. That’s why development of timber tracking systems based on characteristics inherent to the wood are essential.

The Global Timber Tracking Network (GTTN) brings together experts in timber identification tools (wood anatomy, stable isotopes and DNA analyses), policy and advocacy specialists to

(i) integrate, optimize and standardize methods,

(ii) develop a global database with reference data,

(iii) raise awareness and train researchers worldwide.

At the start of the second phase of the GTTN, the new IUFRO report “Illegal Logging and Related Timber Trade – Dimensions, Drivers, Impacts and Responses” offers a welcome perspective on the problem of illegal logging and related timber trade. The full report is available via the IUFRO website. Key issues are highlighted by Dr. Nele Schmitz (GTTN; Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics) in her summary of the report:

A summary of the IUFRO World Series Volume 35 report on illegal logging and related timber trade


For further information about current timber tracking, GTTN activities, sustainable timber markets, contact Dr. Nele Schmitz:




Pursuit of Sustainability – From Knowledge to Action

The pursuit of sustainability requires more and better knowledge, but it is how knowledge is used that matters most. It is part of knowledge that social-environmental systems are influenced by interacting production and consumption processes. Understanding the dynamics of systems and how they can be influenced remains a key challenge. How can existing governance processes be reshaped so that they are more conductive to achieving social wellbeing? How can knowledge be linked with action?


Spotlights on the book ‘Pursuing Sustainability’ (Pamela Matson, William C. Clark, Krister Andersson; Princeton University Press, 2016):


Read main elements here (pdf)


Dr. Nele Schmitz, nele.schmitz(at)scensers.org

Co-evolution of Technology, Society and Institutions: Science-Policy Interface Key for 2030 Agenda

The Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) 2016, issued in July by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, points out that implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires asking new types of questions along the guiding principle of ensuring that no one is left behind. Strengthening the bridge between science and policies is identified as a need and key opportunity.

A nexus approach, looking at the interlinkages between infrastructure, inequality and resilience, reveals that harnessing synergies and addressing trade-offs is critical for policy-making. Processes must be supported by scientific knowledge and cross- and transdisciplinary collaboration. A critical function of the science-policy interface is to bring new and emerging issues to the attention of policy-makers. Identified issues are explored and focused, possibly leading to more timely responses to emerging threats or the exploitation of new opportunities.

As highlighted in the report, design and functioning of inclusive institutions is essential for delivering on the imperative to leave no one behind. Technology has greatly shaped society, economy and environment and vice versa. In achieving the SDGs, technology has a major role to play. One critical point is to take into account how technology, society and institutions co-evolve.


The Global Sustainable Development Report can be accessed on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: GSDR 2016


Dr. Sigrid Kusch contributed to Chapter 3 “Perspectives of scientists on technology and the SDGs” and Chapter 5 “Identification of emerging issues for sustainable development” of GSDR 2016.