Canada’s forest products industry has burnished its environmental credentials to the point that it has become the most progressive forest sector in the world.
That may seem like an audacious claim for an industry once known for belching toxins into the air and for campaigns by conservation groups. But there are impressive reasons why the likes of Green Party leader Elizabeth May have now embraced Canada’s forest sector.
For a start, Canada has the most third-party certified forests on the planet – 151 million hectares or more than 40% of all the world’s certified forests. Certification is an independent assessment that Canadian companies follow the highest standards of sustainable forest management.
In fact the member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) embrace these principles: harvest legally, regenerate promptly, reduce waste and recycle, reduce greenhouse gases and welcome independent scrutiny.
This commitment can be seen in the 650 million seedlings planted annually by Canadian companies and also in Canadian companies vowing to only buy and use wood coming from legal sources.
And there’s more: the Canadian forest products industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% since 1990 while emissions grew in the Canadian economy at large. The pulp and paper sector now gets about two-thirds of its energy needs from forest biomass, and in some cases is now selling excess electricity to the grid. Additionally, the industry is working to maximize the use of every tree harvested and introducing technologies that will lead to the production of biofuels, biochemicals, and more.
The forest products industry in Canada has eliminated dioxins, reduced air pollution by 75% and decreased water used by 36% since 1990. Since that date, the industry has invested more than $9 billion in becoming more “green” and it intends to become carbon neutral without the purchase of carbon offset credits by 2015.
Another impressive achievement is the landmark Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. Environmental groups joined hands with forest products companies belonging to FPAC to jointly work to conserve the environment while also protecting jobs and communities. This historic deal has attracted worldwide attention for bringing former foes together in common cause.
All in all, very impressive achievements.
However, the industry is not resting on its laurels. Under Vision2020, FPAC has identified twelve parameters where the industry will attempt to further reduce its environmental footprint by 35%. These include improvements in greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use, air contaminants and waste.
It’s been a remarkable story that adds up to world-leading environmental accomplishments. And the best and “greenest” is yet to come!