The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released its Energy Technology Transitions for Industry  report calling on governments and manufacturers to consider low-carbon technologies as part of their climate change strategies. While the IEA has a role to play in advising the G-8 and other nations on strategies for the “next industrial revolution”, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) believes it is doing so with flawed data and suspect assumptions.

FPAC has made its concerns known to the IEA for a number of years with no corrective action taken. And we are not alone. Many other global industry representatives and technical experts with such organizations as the American Forest and Paper Association and the Confederation of European Paper Industries, share our concerns and have made similar representations to the IEA.

What is particularly frustrating to FPAC is that the report’s authors have themselves admitted their data to be “significantly” flawed (below and attached):

“Although I recognise that there are significant data issues still to be resolved we believe that we must continue to publish analysis on the sector…..”

“It is not possible for us to wait until the data is perfect before publishing these results.  We recognise that FPAC takes a different position…” Cecilia Tam, IEA Analyst (March 30, 2009 response to an FPAC query dated January 19, 2009).

FPAC’s position on this is indeed very different. Current research and the actual on-the-ground advancements made by the Canadian forest products industry and the pulp and paper sector more specifically, tell a different story than that recounted in the IEA report.  It states that Canada’s manufacturing industries are among the worlds’ least carbon-efficient and specifically criticizes the Canadian pulp and paper sector for a failure to reduce energy intensity and adopt new, more efficient technologies.

In fact, since 1990, FPAC member companies’ pulp and paper mills have reduced their energy intensity by 22%, their GHG emission intensity by 61% and absolute GHG emissions by 57%.  Consequently the sector has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by eight million tonnes. This level of early action is unrivalled in Canadian industry.

At the same time our members have continually adopted renewable biomass, which now supplies nearly 60% of our members’ pulp and paper facilities’ energy needs,  making GHG emission intensity much lower than other industrial sectors and has led to a halving of fossil fuel use as a share of total energy consumption.

The report points to black liquor gasification and carbon capture and storage as the two most prominent technologies for the pulp and paper sector to realize further energy efficiency and GHG reductions. The reality is that black liquor gasification is researched the world over but the technology has yet to be proven. Carbon capture and storage has very limited applicability in the pulp and paper sector. 

Canada’s forest products industry ranks fourth among Canadian industrial sectors for R&D spending.  We are looking at truly transformative technologies beyond just reducing our direct emissions.  The ultimate potential is to produce an array of new bio-based products that substitute the much more carbon intensive products of today. 

The IEA plays an influential role in the policy development internationally and within numerous national and sub-national jurisdictions as it is regarded as a solid source of internationally comparable information. This is why it is imperative that its work be conducted with the utmost care, especially now when the focus is on “the global race for renewables” by which we will witness economies being re-built on a lower carbon platform, opening up new markets.

We believe that by comparing data that are not comparable, the IEA has drawn conclusions that are profoundly misleading and should not form the basis for dialogue among policy-makers or other stakeholders in this sector.

Instead,  FPAC and its partners would welcome the chance to work closely with the IEA to correct its data sets and revise it methodology so that new information can be generated that would  provide everyone with a solid base of analysis going forward.


For more information contact:
Lori Harrop,
Vice-President,  Communications and Environmental Reputation
Forest Products Association of Canada
(613) 563-1441 x313
(613) 697-5072



Detailed Comments Supplied to the IEA by FPAC on the content of its 2009 report:
The IEA has recognized that Energy Technology Transitions for Industry includes flawed data and inconsistencies and gaps across jurisdictions.   FPAC believes this renders the analysis and conclusions of the report equally flawed:

  • “…Japanese data are no longer consistent with other countries.” Page 140
  • “…the fact that Japan, Korea,  Finland, Sweden, Germany and Italy show performances above BAT (Best Available Technology) levels suggests a need for improvement in the underlying energy data…” page 141
  • “The quality of the energy data has made it very difficult to develop reliable indicators for this sector” page 141
  • “It is clear from the numerous breaks in data, and from further investigation of the energy data, that countries are not reporting under a consistent methodology.  More needs to be done in terms of data collection by both industry and governments to develop a set of indicators,  which can be used for effective policy making.” Page 141
  • “Important discrepancies existing between IEA statistics and industry data sources and definitions.”  Page 141
  • “Data availability and consistency need to be improved and the indicators need to be further developed before they can be used as the basis for establishing policies.” Page 141
  • “Some countries, including Germany and China, report no biomass use despite the fact that they report producing chemical pulp.” [All chemical pulping mills burn black liquor which is a by-product of the process.  This is an obvious error!] page 142
  • “The potential shown for China is significantly understated as a result of substantial underreporting in national energy statistics for the sector.” Page 143

FPAC also finds the analysis of performance relative to Best Available Technology (BAT) to be extremely suspect. 

  • How can an entire sector within a country be as much as 1.6 times better than BAT, such as Finland or, to a lesser extent, Japan?  It is conceivable that a single facility can innovate beyond BAT – creating a new BAT.  But an entire country above BAT is literally impossible.
  • Why is the performance of some countries so volatile?  One would expect that performance against BAT would be a slow, long-term trend and not something that would shift up and down erratically, as shown for Spain and Italy