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  • (2022) Lost in the Woods: Canada’s hidden logging emissions are equivalent to those from oil sands operations

    Evergreen Alliance Staff

    By Jennifer Skene and Michael Polanyi


    A glaring omission in Canada’s climate policy is undermining the rigour and integrity of the government’s climate commitments, leaving unaddressed the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from one of the country’s highest-emitting sectors: the logging industry. A new analysis of government data conducted by Nature Canada and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) shows that the logging industry is one of Canada’s major GHG emitters, with a footprint that’s equal to more than 10 percent of Canada’s overall emissions. This figure, which is a conservative estimate, places the logging sector’s GHG emissions on par with oil sands production and higher than emissions from electricity generation.

    However, Canada does not clearly report the logging sector’s emissions. Instead, logging emissions can only be calculated through a complex process of piecing together official data dispersed across various government sources (some of which are available only upon request). In addition, unlike its approach to all other high-emitting sectors, the Government of Canada has not articulated a clear strategy to reduce this sector’s emissions, effectively exempting the logging industry from its keystone climate policies.

    The exclusion of this high-emitting sector jeopardizes Canada’s climate ambition. The government’s achievement of its commitment to reduce Canada’s emissions to 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 depends on a full and accurate accounting of—and effective actions to reduce— emissions from all sectors of the economy. The lack of recognition of the logging sector’s significant emissions also leads to a fundamentally flawed basis for forest sector policy decisions, including forest carbon regulation, perpetuating policy decisions grounded in the myth of logging’s carbon neutrality and exempting the industry from accountability.

    Canada’s climate leadership depends on a comprehensive accounting and mitigation of impacts across all sectors. The atmosphere does not distinguish between emissions from logging and those from fossil fuels and, by the government’s own numbers, the logging industry ranks among Canada’s greatest climate liabilities. Canada should transparently and accurately report logging emissions, addressing them alongside emissions from all other high-emitting sectors in its 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) and other policies.

    This report outlines the key findings from the new Nature Canada and NRDC technical report, and proposes key policy recommendations for the Government of Canada to address the high level of GHG emissions from the logging sector. These recommendations include: 1.) Transparently report the logging industry’s emissions; 2.) Develop a strategy for reducing these emissions; 3.) Directly regulate the sector’s emissions; and 4.) Address biases, flaws, and omissions in Canada’s logging emissions accounting.

    Download the report: (2022) Lost-in-the-Woods-Report Canada’s Hidden Logging Emissions Are Equivalent to Those from Oil Sands Operations.pdf

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    Skene and Polanyi are right to warn Canadians about the logging industry's impact on climate stability. As their report notes, however, they too use "government's own underlying data". In BC, biogenic carbon emissions prematurely emitted to the atmosphere by logging don't even count in the government's assessment of provincial GHG emissions

    Some of those biogenic emissions are recorded in the inventory, but they are not counted in the public reporting of provincial emissions.

    Worse, only about half of logging-related biogenic emissions are even recorded—those related to decomposition of forest products, as well as an estimate of emissions from slash pile burning. But much of the organic material killed by logging does not make it into the government's calculations.

    The Evergreen Alliance has developed a methodology for estimating all forest carbon emissions that are prematurely released to the atmosphere as a result of logging.

    As well, the liquidation of primary forests and the attempted replacement of those natural forests with managed forests will result in a significant decline in forest carbon sequestration capacity in BC. The impact of that loss of the ability of BC forests to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is slightly larger than the impact of BC's carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

    This report does not include that loss in its considerations.

    The upshot is that the impact on GHG emissions from BC's biogenic emissions plus the loss of carbon sequestration capacity alone are larger than the emissions from Canada's oil sands projects.

    This report is far too conservative in its estimation of the problem.

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