Jump to content
  • Government audit shows logging emissions not being counted, and plan to plant two billion trees failing

    Nature Canada

    Foundational flaws across key pillars of Canada’s forest and climate policy jeopardize its ability to meet its climate and nature commitments.


    THAT’S THE KEY MESSAGE of a new audit report by the Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco, which was released in April, 2023.

    The report shows that Canada is failing to clearly report on industrial logging’s climate impacts, and that its flagship Two Billion Tree program is failing to meet its climate and biodiversity goals.

    The audit follows years of repeated calls by scientists and health and environment groups, urging Canada to accurately and transparently report logging emissions.

    In a key passage, the report states that “Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada did not provide a clear and complete picture of the effects of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from forests….This makes it difficult for decision makers to use the information to guide policy decisions and for Canadians to hold government to account.”

    “The Commissioner’s report reinforces the conclusion that the Trudeau government has so far refused to heed: that its continued failure to acknowledge the significant greenhouse gas footprint of industrial logging is breeding biased, counterproductive climate policymaking,” said Jennifer Skene of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “With time running out for forests and climate, the government should act quickly on the Commissioner’s call for an independent expert review and to address the gaps in reporting of logging sector emissions.”



    Satellite image of BC above Paradise Lake near Peachland


    While Canada reports forest-wide greenhouse gas emissions as below zero in 2021, a report released last year by Nature Canada and NRDC found that net logging emissions on their own were approximately 75 megatonnes, roughly equivalent to emissions from Canada’s oil sands operations. However, the government has not acknowledged this impact nor factored it into its policymaking, leaving a significant hole in its climate strategy.

    The Commissioner also revealed that Canada’s Two Billion Trees program will fail to meet its objectives unless significant changes are made:

    “It is vital that Canada be transparent and consistent in ensuring that tree planting projects advance both climate and biodiversity objectives, while also creating new permanent forest cover in Canada,” said David Wallis of Nature Canada. “To date, Natural Resources Canada has failed to ensure that trees planted remain in the ground over the long term. It has also not ensured that planting projects meet key requirements for biodiversity.”

    The report found that 14% of trees planted were in plantations consisting of a single species, which do not meaningfully contribute to biodiversity goals and are more susceptible to disease.

    The Auditor’s report on forest emissions is here. For more on this subject, including a “Clearcut Carbon Calculator”, see this analysis at Evergreen Alliance.

    For 80 years, Nature Canada has helped protect over 110 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species. Today, Nature Canada represents a network of over 175,000 members and supporters and more than 1,200 nature organizations.

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    The author seems to want to ignore the difference between forests and oil and gas formations. In the latter there is no recovery mechanism for CO2 emissions while in the forest there is - carbon absorbing into the fast growing second growth. (Note: old growth forests absorb little if any carbon – Patrick Moore, FutureMetrics). The Federal Government is correct in considering the “net" carbon emissions of the forests. The author seems to be trying to save the world from carbon by calling upon Canada to do what might disrupt the economy and bread of the table for working Canadians. Let all of us remember that from the global view five countries lead by China and the US contribute 58% of the global carbon emissions (EDGAR, IEA). Canada's carbon emissions are only 1.5% of the world total. Sure, let's do a better job with our forest and logging management and get the net carbon into a larger negative position but don't destroy our forest economy in the process. (R. Burke BASC Forest Engineering UBC; Sloan Fellow and MBA Stanford University)

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    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.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Climate skeptics blame unprecedented (until next year) wildfires on arsonists - and they don’t mean the Pathways Alliance.  I wonder what impact forest & construction waste biomass could have on CO2 emissions. Are there Climate-Smart forestry management measures that could increase forest resiliency & reduce global heating while maintaining a lumber industry and providing clean power?

    BECCS for power generation & district heating could draw down carbon while displacing fossil gas. The biomass heat would free up more electricity for heat pumps elsewhere. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

  • Create New...