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Some Basic Truths From the Front Lines

Perhaps more than any other industrial sector, the future of Canada's forest products industry is extraordinarily dependent on the continued well-being of Canada's ecosystems, which explains why the i...


December 1, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Perhaps more than any other industrial sector, the future of Canada’s forest products industry is extraordinarily dependent on the continued well-being of Canada’s ecosystems, which explains why the industry is more than a casual observer of the debate around climate change policy. Case in point, the mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia and Alberta has had an enormous impact on not only the forests but also the industries and communities that are dependent on the forest resource.

The lesson learned from the pine beetle epidemic is that our economic, environmental and social well-being is intertwined and incredibly vulnerable to a changed climate. For this reason, a basic climate change truth is that action is urgently required that not only addresses what we are currently doing to the climate but also what an already changed climate will do to us.

The second lesson learned is that driving greenhouse gas emissions down must be done through more than efficiency improvements. The growth of global living standards is now linked to fossil fuel use; effective climate change policy must seek to break this linkage. Climate change cannot be addressed through a simple emissions-reduction approach that rations emissions — and hence economic well being — but must instead be considered through a more comprehensive “re-tooling” lens.

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The forest products sector has invested billions annually in facility upgrades and innovative practices in a continued effort to improve environmental performance and lessen its impact on climate change. These innovations are contributing to a dramatically cleaner, healthier environment, while simultaneously improving the industry’s competitiveness.

This leads to the final basic truth: to create lasting and meaningful changes, any climate change action plan for industry must link environmental goals and planning to the economic realities of investment cycles and priorities. Environmental improvements will come with time as capital investment cycles kick in, but there is a need for more urgent action. Deep re-tooling depends on significant capital investment, which requires a predictable, long-term policy regime and incentives for faster capital renewal cycles.

Following the forest products industry’s ‘lessons learned’, we may find that at the end of the day, with the right type of strategy and priorities, fighting climate change will prove easier in practice than in theory.

Excerpt from Hill Times August 14th policy briefing on climate change.