Forest sector pledges to become carbon-neutral by 2015
Canada's forest products industry is raising the bar for environmental responsibility and action on climate change, committing itself to becoming a carbon-neutral sector by 2015 without the purchase of carbon offset credits.
"Climate change is the number one environmental threat facing the world today and becoming carbon neutral is the most significant step the forest products sector can take to reduce its overall environmental footprint," said Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC).
"Canada's forest products industry has already made significant strides in mitigating its impact on the climate and its next step is to be carbon-neutral," he stated. "The initiative we are announcing today has the potential to not only move the industry towards carbon-neutrality by 2015 but to go beyond, potentially removing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we emit. And, unlike other sectors that rely significantly on the purchase of offsets, we can get there without having to do so."
To achieve their carbon-neutral commitment, FPAC members, working in partnership with key stakeholders (including governments and environmental organizations), will pursue an aggressive strategy focused on:
1) Reducing direct and indirect emissions through measures such as:
* becoming energy self-sufficient, e.g. by switching from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources such as biomass in order to benefit from greater energy efficiencies;
* adopting new more energy-efficient technologies;
* increasing the diversion of used forest products from landfills;
* increasing the use of landfill capping systems; and
* further exploiting cogeneration opportunities.
2) Increasing the sequestration potential of forests and products by:
* finding opportunities to maintain and enhance carbon storage in forests through landscape planning and sustainable forest management practices; and
* enhancing the pool of carbon stored in the value chain and minimizing emissions from end-of-life disposal.
3) Increasing avoided emissions by:
* finding ways to maximize recycling of paper and wood products; and
* understanding the carbon implications of wood-based materials in relation to available substitutes.
To provide guidance and help the industry move toward its goal, FPAC has embarked on a new partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Canada, with climate change as its primary focus.
For the forest sector, climate change presents a number of complex challenges and opportunities. These include the indirect repercussions of global warming such as pine beetle infestations, as well as the opportunity for the forest sector to position itself as a climate-friendly sector. Yet, there is not enough conclusive research and no policy standards that clarify the right approach for making Canadian forestry climate-friendly.
"WWF has already begun some groundbreaking research into the global potential of sustainable forestry for bioenergy supply and climate change mitigation, and their Climate Savers program has established a high standard of emission reductions among leaders in many business sectors," Lazar noted.
As part of their new partnership, FPAC and WWF-Canada have initially agreed on a two-year project that will focus on:
1. seeking out and defining potential greenhouse gas savings from renewable energy, cogeneration and other mitigation options;
2. enhancing forestry-related life cycle analysis;
3. working together on landscape-level and stand-level measures that are both carbon and conservation friendly; and,
4. using case studies to develop recommendations and proposed guidelines for bioenergy production and wood product manufacturing so that forest product use and greenhouse gas savings are maximized, while biodiversity impacts are minimized.
"We are pleased that FPAC is taking such a leadership position and not waiting for government regulations before taking action. My big hope is that other Canadian sectors will follow suit and rise to the challenge," said WWF-Canada president and CEO Mike Russill.
Both organizations are convinced that some of the greatest opportunities for the future of the forest industry will be realized by providing leadership in sustainability and environmental performance. Already FPAC and WWF-Canada, working together, have helped chart a path for more sustainable management in commercial forestry by developing a toolkit for high conservation value forests (HCVF).
Over the past two decades, Canada's forest products industry has invested in facility upgrades and innovative processes aimed at improving environmental performance and limiting this sector's impact on climate change. As a result, fossil fuel dependence has been cut to the point where almost 60% of pulp and paper facilities' energy needs are self-generated from renewable sources.
Since 1990 as well, the industry has reduced its use of fossil fuels by 45%, with a consequent 44% decline in greenhouse gas emissions and a 54% improvement in GHG emissions intensity, as well as a 40% reduction in landfill waste. These environmental improvements have also brought economic benefits, as FPAC members have increased their production by 20%.
In addition to its work with WWF, FPAC has assembled a group of advisors who have agreed to help advise the association as it pursues its objectives. The group includes: Darcie Booth, Tony Lempriere and Dr Werner Kurz, all with the Canadian Forest Service; Jennifer O'connor, FP Innovations, Forintek; Tom Browne, FP Innovations, Paprican; Reid Miner, Brad Upton and Kirsten Vice, all with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement; Dr Marlo Raynolds of the Pembina Institute; Michael Northrop of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Dr. Gordon McBean, head of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario; and Florence Daviet of the World Resources Institute. FPAC will also receive advice from relevant individuals representing the market and customer supply chain.