Forest Industry to go Carbon-Neutral

Ottawa, Canada - The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) has announced that Canada’s forest products industry, a global leader in sustainable forest management, is setting a new bar for environmental responsibility and action on climate change by achieving industry-wide carbon-neutrality by 2015 without the purchase of carbon offset credits. A partnership with WWF-Canada will help guide the initiative.

“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 Mike Russill, President and CEO of WWF-Canada.

“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 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.”

The announcement comes at an interesting time given that recent studies have suggested that the boreal forest is not a carbon sink, but actually is a net contributor to CO2 emissions. That has not prevented the forest industry lobby from seeking to gain better leverage with respect to securing higher carbon offset credits.

A determined campaign is underway to persuade European policymakers to make it easier for emissions trading participants to access credits from carbon sinks, especially tropical and sub-tropical forests.

Forests Now, a coalition of 200 campaign groups, businesses and academics, has been lobbying the European Parliament to simplify the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules on forestry projects to be simplified to allow carbon credits generated by projects that either prevent deforestation or lead to forestation to be more easily tradable. At present under Kyoto climate change rules only reforestation and forestation projects in developing countries are eligible for carbon credits.

Lazar has been critical of current efforts to deal with climate change and with the use of carbon offsets. The climate change problem is too vast to overcome at the level of a continent, let alone an individual, Lazar told a recent Vancouver gathering of representatives of some of Canada’s largest industries.

Lazar stated the world’s “well-being” is tied to carbon and in the place of a “failed” Kyoto Protocol and the inability of countries to collectively address the global problem, it is left to technology to eventually save the day.

“The amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere from deforestation in Indonesia is four times all the emissions from all of Canada each year,” he pointed out. Canada’s rate of deforestation is effectively zero, and while the Canadian pulp, paper and wood sectors are huge users of energy, they now use approximately 60% renewable energy in mills and are on track to becoming net exporters of “green” energy. Lazar said industries should be moving toward “deep re-engineering.

The joint FPAC-WWF initiative has the potential not only to move the industry towards carbon-neutrality by 2015 but to go beyond, potentially removing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits, noted Lazar.

“The road will not be easy but we are confident that we can get there with the help of our partners and key stakeholders, and the guidance of other advisors,” added Lazar. “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.”

Over the past two decades, FPAC members have set the pace for facility upgrades and innovative processes in a continued effort to improve their environmental performance and limit their impact on climate change. In so doing, they have reduced their fossil-fuel dependence to the point where almost 60% of their pulp and paper facilities’ energy needs are self-generated from renewable sources.

From an environmental perspective, these efforts have had tangible results since 1990: a 45% cut in the use of fossil fuels, a 54% improvement in greenhouse gas emissions intensity, a 40% reduction in landfill waste, and a 44% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. These environmental improvements also bring distinct economic benefits, as FPAC members have increased their production by 20%.

“While we take great pride in our record of reducing emissions within our own operations, we are committed to going further and we encourage others to also voluntarily embrace stretch targets,” concluded Lazar. “As a next step, by working with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders across our value chain, we hope to not only minimize our own carbon profile but also to provide our customers with the information and products they need to meet their own climate change objectives.”

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For More Information: Forest Products Association of Canada

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