I stand up for forestry because it is a significant mitigation tool for our province to use in its transformation to a low carbon economy.
In the past year, we have seen a more focused effort internationally and nationally to address the issue of climate change. With the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) agreement in Paris, renewed interest at the federal and subnational level, we are witnessing major climate change policy discussions and decisions happening in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Here in Ontario, the government just passed Cap and Trade Legislation and released their Climate Change Action Plan which is one of the most comprehensive and far reaching plans in the country (if not the world).
No matter where these climate change plans are developed, whether it is in Paris or Toronto, there is a belief that there needs to be a radical shift (or perhaps a leap) in how we as society conduct our business and live our lives. We must reduce GHG emissions by reducing reliance on fossil fuel use, transition to low carbon manufacturing by producing products with less fossil fuels and more renewable inputs and capture and store carbon in our products and in natural systems.
Let’s just step back and take stock of how the forest products sector fits into these radical climate change plans.
For over 20 years the forest products sector has invested significantly in energy efficiency and biomass cogeneration. The mills operating in Ontario have reduced their GHG emissions by over 64% since 1990, far exceeding any government reduction targets.
Compared to other energy intensive manufacturing sectors, the forest product’s sector is a leader in low carbon manufacturing. We have facilities currently generating electricity and process heat using in excess of 85% renewable energy, which includes biomass and landfill bio-gas. In fact, a recent third party study showed Ontario and Canada’s pulp and paper sector to be a global leader in low carbon manufacturing.
The forest products sector already provides a wide range of low carbon products which provide documented carbon storage. There also exist opportunities for the sector to transform beyond traditional commodity products into new value added streams that would displace traditional fossil fuel based products, such as dissolving pulp, biofuels, chemicals and next generation building materials. There is also a renewed interest in building with wood, using both traditional and also advanced building technologies.
Sustainable forest management helps Ontario’s forests remain healthy and productive, preserving and growing Ontario’s carbon sink. The carbon neutrality of Canadian and Ontario biomass and wood products is widely recognized by research and studies supported by a number of agencies and institutions.
If you work in the forest products sector none of this sounds radical, it just sounds like another day at work!
And customers purchasing Ontario’s renewable forest products can do so knowing they are making a sound environmental choice and supporting our Province’s transformation to a low carbon economy.
Environment and Energy Advisor