British Columbians take message about impact on BC forests of pellet use in Japan.
Connolly and Parfitt in front of a pellet plant Ishinomaki (Photo by Conservation North)
Prince George, BC – Conservation North director Michelle Connolly returned last week from Japan, where she and Ben Parfitt, a policy analyst with the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, met with pellet financiers, elected officials and media.
The trip was organized and supported by three Japanese environmental groups concerned about the loss of natural forests in BC and climate change. Japan sources more pellets from BC than from any other jurisdiction in the world.
Connolly and Parfitt spoke with public and business audiences and media in Tokyo and Sendai about what an expanding pellet industry means for primary forests, and the risks sourcing them from BC poses to Japan. “Forestry interests promote the idea that BC forests are managed sustainably, when they are not. We were invited to Japan to tell the public and key decision-makers about what’s happening to at-risk forests and species in this province,” Connolly said.
The Minister of Forests is visiting Japan this week to promote BC wood products, including pellets.
Connolly and Parfitt met with biomass financiers Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, as well as the Sumitomo Corporation, owner of the Pacific Bioenergy plant in Prince George that shut its doors in 2022. The duo and their hosts also met with sustainable investment experts, as well as elected officials from both the ruling party and the opposition.
“BC is a high-risk place from which to source pellets. Logging companies have cut down too much forest too quickly. Sawmills, pulp mills and even some pellet mills have closed because too little primary forest is left,” Parfitt told investors and bioindustry officials in Japan.
Japan sources large amounts of wood pellets from forests in British Columbia, the southern United States, and Vietnam. In BC, these pellets are made using slash from logging, sawmill waste and, critically, trees logged expressly for this purpose.
“Decision-makers, financiers and journalists were scandalized that BC still promotes and subsidizes the logging of primary forest, when other developed countries have banned this practice,” states Connolly. Primary (or natural) forests are forests that have never been industrially logged. Logging this non-renewable resource is incompatible with BC’s newly-announced ambitions to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Staff from Global Environmental Forum, Friends of the Earth Japan and Mighty Earth Japan, who sponsored the Japan tour, visited north-central BC last year with Japan’s public broadcaster. NHK Japan created this segment on BC pellets, which was part of a longer documentary on “greenwashing”, or presenting a practice as positive for the environment when it’s actually harmful.