Forest sector could contribute more to GHG reductions—and make money with aggressive plantation program

By Tony Kryzanowski

Just to be clear, I am on the side of forest companies helping to fight climate change AND making money.

That’s why I responded to the Forest Products Association of Canada’s (FPAC) recent announcement about the industry’s pledge to remove 30 megatonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 with a healthy dose of skepticism.

FPAC’s document, “30 by 30 - Climate Change Challenge”, has value as a primer to our politicians who will be setting some fairly meaty climate change policies over the next six months. The federal government has committed to reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 30 per cent—or the equivalent of 225 MT of carbon by 2030.

FPAC says the forest sector’s goal represents a 13 per cent contribution toward that national goal.

A read of the document is essentially a reminder of what the forest industry has been doing by way of research and development and investment for the past 20 years. To some extent, it asks politicians not to pick on the forest sector in its upcoming deliberations, as there is strong evidence that it already is doing its part.

But if this is what the industry has accomplished to date, why not do more? The bar has been set way too low, in my opinion, especially with so many opportunities that could create new income and cost savings for forest companies while contributing even more toward Canada’s GHG reduction target. That said, it’s crucial for a more aggressive target to have a potential financial payback to industry. History has shown time and again, that if forest companies see no opportunity to make or save money in any climate change venture, don’t count on the sector’s participation. I agree with that.

One area that has never been explored seriously by industry, provincial governments, or the federal government—despite a considerable amount of R & D spending—is the role that carefully-managed forest plantations on private land can play as part of a forest company’s fibre supply management program, for creating carbon sinks to help governments meet GHG reduction goals, and for maintaining healthy forests.

Rather than simply rehashing what the industry is doing already, developing a practical, national, and aggressive forest plantation program should be a big part of the industry’s discussions with federal politicians as they develop a plan for Canada to meet its GHG reduction goal. Industry needs to show leadership on this issue, because there should be no expectation that politicians making important climate change policy decisions actually understand how the forest sector functions. In fact the opposite should be assumed—that they know little to nothing about it.

While tree farming is common practice in many other parts of the world, rarely has it ever been discussed seriously in Canada as a potential economic opportunity and tool to battle climate change. It should be.

The payback is more than just the potential for an expanded fibre supply for industry and creation of carbon sinks. Canada has a problem. Our forests are becoming unhealthy. Because of more intensive forest management over the past 40 years, we are losing considerable biodiversity in our natural forests. FPAC says that current forest management practices have resulted in only a 0.02 percent rate of deforestation. While Canada’s policy of planting at least one tree for every tree harvested is admirable, what it doesn’t consider is how intensive forest management is actually changing Canada’s forests. That’s where a well-developed plantation program can deliver additional benefits.

As a starting point, the federal government’s GHG reduction strategy should provide financial incentives that encourage development of more partnerships between forest companies and private landowners to plant trees for use in forest operations. A few suggestions include development of formulas to reduce a company’s stumpage fee based upon the percentage of natural forest it leaves intact within its Forest Management Area (FMA) by partnering with private landowners to establish plantations. Rather than paying a stumpage fee, the company would simply transfer that saving to the cost of purchasing the wood from the private landowner in regular installments or at maturity.

The federal government could make changes to the tax code where private landowners could claim a tax credit for partnering with forest companies on plantation projects. There is also the potential for the private landowner and/or the forest company to engage in selling the carbon credits derived from the plantation.

Forest companies benefit from much easier harvesting and reforestation of wood fibre compared to a natural stand, and opportunities to better manage the age, quality and growth trajectory of the wood fibre. The private landowner benefits from a new source of income. The government benefits by the creation of new carbon sinks to meet its GHG goals and helps to preserve natural forests for biodiversity.

If such a policy is actually adopted, a complaint should be expected from the agriculture sector that putting arable land back into trees will reduce food production. That can be controlled by placing a percentage limit on how much of a farmer’s land can be seeded back to trees to maximize the tax benefit.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
October 2016

On the Cover:
The re-opening of the plywood plant in Cochrane has brought 125 jobs back to the northeastern Ontario town. In addition to the plant facilities, the deal to re-open the plant includes a guaranteed wood supply, with a provincial allocation of 200,000 cubic metres annually of veneer quality aspen logs. (Cover photo courtesy of Rockshield Engineered Wood Products)

Seeking more balanced timber allocation in the B.C. Interior
B.C.’s Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association is encouraging the provincial government to consider a more balanced approach to timber allocation, where commodity dimension lumber sawmills and value added wood product manufacturers each have access to the fibre flow they require to succeed.

New Grapple Camera offers bird’s eye view
A new Grapple Camera from B.C.’s T-Mar Industries is allowing loggers to achieve safer and more productive grapple yarding operations, offering a bird’s eye view of choker settings—in high def, no less.

Coffee-powered plywood
The re-opening of the plywood plant in Cochrane, Ontario has brought a good number of jobs and economic activity back to the community—and it all started over a cup of coffee.

Double win: more production and uptime
Alberta logger Ted Freake is looking for more production per shift and uptime, and he’s confident he can achieve both with his new LogMax ProCut 2330 processing head—the first such head in Canada.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.

What was new at … DEMO 2016
Logging and Sawmilling Journal was there at the most successful DEMO show in years, held in Maple Ridge, B.C. in September. We highlight what was new in logging equipment and services in this issue.

The Last Word
The forest sector could contribute more to GHG reductions—and make money—with an aggressive plantation program, says Tony Kryzanowski.

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