About one-third or roughly 3.5 million square kilometres of our country is made up of forest, more than nearly any other country on earth. National Forest Week (September 23-29) provides an opportunity to recognize how Canada’s forest sector has become an international model for sustainable forest management, conservation, and fighting climate change – not to mention an important economic driver with 230,000 direct, family-supporting jobs across the country.
In Canada, sustainability is the law. We harvest less than 0.5 per cent of our harvestable forests, and plant more than 1,000 trees every minute – or more than 500 million trees per year. Our rules, regulations, and policies are among the most stringent in the world. When Canadian lumber, pulp, paper, and bioproducts compete on the global stage against those from the United States, Russia, Brazil, or Scandinavia, we can be proud of their quality and the fact that they have been sustainably sourced.
In today’s global economy, our customers demand sustainably sourced materials and need assurances that we are using active forest management as a way to support all species and values in Canadian forests – protecting watersheds, preserving wetlands, managing pest outbreaks, and taking steps to mitigate the increasing challenge of keeping communities safe from fire.
As we move collectively to a greener economy, Canada’s forest products sector has positioned itself as a solutions-provider on the product side. Long-known the world over for quality wood, pulp, and paper products, Canada is emerging as a forestry innovation hotbed with growing capacity to make biofuels and bioproducts from wood fiber which in some cases are used as a substitute for non-renewable materials and energy sources.
Two years ago, Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) challenged the industry to exceed greenhouse gas emission reduction targets with our 30×30 Climate Change Challenge. In doing so, the sector pledged the annual removal of 30 Mega-tonnes (MT) of CO2 per year by 2030 – which represents more than 13 per cent of the Canadian government’s carbon reduction target. It also made Canada’s forest products sector the first national industry group to present a clear plan to voluntarily contribute to Ottawa’s climate goals.
We calculated that the 30 MT reduction in carbon could be reached through world-leading forest management practices that include sustainable harvesting of mature trees that have absorbed years of carbon, before they turn into carbon emitters – locking the carbon into a long-lived wood product and subsequently replanting and supporting regeneration so younger trees can restart the carbon absorption cycle. Other key aspects include increasing the use of innovative forest products and clean technologies to provide alternatives to materials made from fossil fuels, along with finding further efficiencies at mill sites.
This week, during National Forest Week, it’s important to recognize the people who work in our forests every day to keep them healthy for generations to come; how our forests are a critical resource in our collective fight against climate change, and; support how ‘Made in Canada’ forestry provides not only real environmental benefits, but also family-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers in rural, northern, and Indigenous communities across our country.
Happy National Forest Week, Canada!
Derek Nighbor is the CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, the national industry voice representing Canada’s forest products industry.