Maximizing the carbon stored in B.C.'s forests could provide benefits both economically and environmentally over the long-term, says a new report, Managing B.C.'s Forests for a Cooler Planet.
"We really need to be focusing much more on the value of solid wood products, in particular, as the cornerstone of a strong and re-invigorated forest industry in the province," report author Ben Parfitt said Monday. "If we do that, there's going to be some major green benefits. Every time we take a tree and log it, and turn the log into a solid wood product, we're essentially keeping the carbon that was stored in the tree stored in the lumber," noted Parfitt, who is with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The recommendations in the report -- which was supported by Canada's three leading forestry unions, including the Western Canadian branch of the United Steelworkers, and a number of environmental groups -- are aimed at reducing B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gases have been linked to climate change, which includes temperatures increases in some areas of the world like northern B.C.
Among Parfitt's recommendations are increasing forest conservation, delaying or reducing logging in certain forests to increase carbon storage and letting trees live longer before they are logged.
Also on the reports list of 10 key recommendations are:
- Accounting for all the carbon stored in forest products;
- Limiting wood waste;
- Establishing carbon plantations;
- Promoting wood;
- Proceeding with caution when burning wood for energy;
- Committing fully to a true no net deforestation policy;
- And accounting for all forest carbon debits and credits.
If these kinds of efforts are not undertaken, the report warns of more devastation ahead as forest insect attacks increase and more forest fires burn. The pine beetle epidemic in B.C. has been blamed, in part, on mild winters linked to climate change.
"This plan would truly set B.C. on an exciting new course," says United Steelworkers district 3 official Scott Lunny.
He contended that wood waste at logging operations costs 2,400 industry jobs each year.
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is supporting the action plan laid out in the report.
"Environmentalists are now on the same side as forestry workers because we all want sustainable jobs and real world solutions that respect the realities of the challenges we face," said Ben West, an official with the wilderness committee.
B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell, who had had a quick scan of the report, said there are some interesting ideas in the report, although he was surprised the forestry unions are supporting conserving more forests. Bell said he didn't see how the province could go any further than the 14 per cent of the province already secure in parks and protected areas.
However, he said coming up with a proper accounting of carbon storage that takes into account carbon stored in wood products is critical.
The province has already moved on some fronts including promoting wood and reducing wood waste.
NDP forestry critic Norm Macdonald said there were some good ideas in the report, but cautioned that some details would need to be put to them to ensure there were no unintended consequences, particularly impacting employment in already hard-hit forest-based communities.
He said the B.C. Liberal government should take seriously the themes in the report that call for more long-term planning and those that could help diversify the forest sector.