The U.S. based Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) latest video on climate change and carbon emissions ignores the facts about what’s actually happening in Canada’s forests and how our forests and Canadian forest management are fighting climate change.
NRDC’s video starts in a boreal bog, correctly identifying areas like bogs and peatlands that help us store and sequester carbon. What NRDC overlooks is that in our carefully developed forest management plans, we consider such areas in our mapping and rarely harvest in them.
The single biggest false claim in the piece, however, is when NRDC insists that Canadian forestry activity contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. That’s just not so. In fact, in the government’s latest State of the Forests Report 2018, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) shares that Canada’s managed forests actually removed more than 20 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere in 2016 and continues to be an ongoing carbon sink. That’s the complete opposite of what NRDC is pushing on the public.
NRDC’s video is full of other omissions and distortions about the on-the-ground reality of Canadian forest practices. The video misleadingly implies that harvesting is widespread, but only 0.2% of the boreal forest is harvested each year according to NRCan. Canada’s strict forest management laws require that all plans are developed with local community input and 100% of harvested forests be promptly regenerated. As such, harvesting is not deforestation, which is the permanent clearing of forest to make way for non-forest land use. Canada has one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world at less than 0.01%.
In Canada, sustainable forest management creates new, healthy habitat for wildlife that can capture carbon dioxide. Most provinces use an approach called Ecosystem Based Management to reduce the gap between natural processes and management practices. In this process, harvesting is quickly followed by regeneration (either by planting, seeding or natural processes) that kick-starts forests into a different stage of growth, with its own set of biodiversity.
This approach results in the long term in greater carbon storage than not harvesting. Older forests are more vulnerable to being destroyed by natural disturbances like fire and disease. Since trees in older forests grow more slowly, they are less resistant to insects and diseases. Older forests have a higher concentration of dry woody debris, which is highly combustible. This threat is even greater since climate change creates an increased risk for natural disturbances. For instance, large-scale natural disturbances released 98 million tonnes of CO2 in Canada in 2016. Rather than allow these areas to be permanently destroyed by natural disturbances, harvesting older trees creates the conditions necessary for rapid regeneration and the storage of additional carbon within carbon-storing forest products.
And while carbon sequestration is an important factor in curbing climate change, the Canadian forest products industry is leading the way on reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2016, the Canadian forest products industry pledged to remove 30 million tonnes of CO2 by the year 2030 and, since 1990, Canada’s pulp and paper industry have reduced GHG emissions by over 60%.
What NRDC also fails to recognize in their ideal scenario is that if forest products do not come from Canada’s third-party certified and sustainably managed forests, they will come from other countries where forest management is far less regulated, further increasing the risk for actual deforestation around the world.
The people who live and work in Canada’s boreal forest care about its health and future since many Canadian communities are sustained by the plentiful, renewable natural resource in their backyards. The forest products industry is the largest employer of First Nations people, directly or indirectly employing some 12,000 First Nations people.
The forest products industry is committed to mitigating the effects of climate change through sustainable forestry, and Canadian communities deserve to know the truth about our practices.