By Robert Larocque, Vice President, Climate Change, Environment, and Labour, FPAC
Canada’s forest products industry has just become the first sector to announce how it intends to help Canada reach its ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the fight against climate change.
I feel extraordinarily proud of our sector’s leadership in addressing climate change and progress we’ve made in being good stewards of the environment.
There is no doubt that the forest products industry was once part of the problem with dirty mills spewing out noxious substances. But those days are long past. Instead we are now very much part of the solution, and have the focus and ambition to be clean and green.
I started working for the industry in 1996 and have seen extraordinary progress in reducing the sector’s environmental footprint over the past twenty years. For example, as part of the industry, I helped the sector eliminate toxins such as PCBs and dioxins; the industry has eliminated the use of coal; pulp and paper mills have already cut their GHG emissions by an astounding 66% since 1990; Canada has become a world leader in certification of its forests—an independent assessment that the industry follows progressive environmental and social policies.
The sector is also following the path of continuous improvement by pledging to further improve our environmental credentials by an additional 35% under the sector’s Vision2020. It gives me great satisfaction to note that a survey by Leger Marketing undertaken late last year of international customers concluded that Canada’s forest products industry had the best environmental reputation in the world.
Now we are taking yet another giant step forward by launching our “Climate Change Challenge”. Our sector is pledging to remove 30 megatonnes (MT) of CO2 a year by 2030—that’s a full 13% of the Canadian government’s emissions reduction target under the Paris agreement. This is an entirely new commitment to build on the progress we’ve made in the past.
The forest products industry is in a unique position to contribute to the fight against climate change by looking for ways to improve carbon storage in our forests, to reduce emissions at our mills and to promote more long-lived forest products such as taller wood frame buildings and new bio-products that can displace materials made with fossil fuels.
Reaching our 30 by 30 target will be a challenge and we will need to work with governments, academics, researchers, environmental groups and others to achieve it. We will need fresh ideas and bold changes. But I am confident that we are ready to think big. I know that I am.
Climate change is emerging as one of the key issues of our time and the Canadian forest products industry is ready and willing to make a significant contribution with our Climate Change Challenge.