Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Canadian premiers and top climate scientists from across the country Nov. 23 to develop a strategy and cohesive position that Canada will take to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The political symbolism of this meeting cannot be overstated.

This was the first time in seven years that all of the premiers gathered together to meet with the Prime Minister and it is fitting that the topic they discussed was one of the defining issues of our generation — climate change. The message Canada sends to the rest of the world at the upcoming UN conference will lay the foundation for sustainable and responsible economic growth for decades to come. However, Canadian leadership must not only come from our government, but from industry as well.

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) strongly believes that Canada has an opportunity to establish itself as a world leader on climate change. As a resource and manufacturing industry that directly supports 230,000 well paid jobs across Canada and is a world leader in green, sustainable forest practices, we believe that no other sector is better positioned to help advance Canada’s climate goals and establish itself as a world leader in that field.

FPAC, in partnership with the Canadian Climate Forum, hosted a panel Nov. 19 with experts from industry, conservation and climate science to discuss how the forest industry can be part of the solution to a changing climate. At the event, climate scientist Dr. Stephen Colombo released a compelling research paper documenting the important role the forest industry plays in addressing climate change. The paper identifies how wood can support climate mitigation through both storage of carbon and as a substitute to more energy intensive materials, such as metal, concrete and plastic.

“The best long-term strategy for climate change mitigation using forests is to harvest a sustainable supply of wood for use as timber, fibre or energy, a strategy recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading body on climate change science,” states Dr. Colombo in his report. “As noted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, ‘wood products from forests that are sustainably managed contribute to climate change mitigation through (1) carbon sequestration stored in wood-based and paper products, which represents an expanding net carbon sink; and (2) avoid emissions when substituted for more energy intensive material.’”

Dr. Colombo also recognized Canada’s forest products industry as a leader in reducing greenhouse gases, stating: “Since 1990, the pulp and paper industry in Canada has reduced emissions by about 65 per cent.” Led by FPAC, the forest sector has also pledged to be carbon neutral across the supply chain by the end of 2015.

There is no doubt that with four times more certified forests than any other country, Canada’s forestry sector has emerged as a global environmental leader. However, there is much more that we must and will do. For example, the industry is working with environmentalists to explore evolving practices of sustainable forest management to increase forest resilience, which can be a long-term investment in reducing atmospheric CO2. The sector has also pledged to further improve its environmental credentials by 35 per cent by the end of the decade.

As the forest industry continues to do its part, we want government to make sure that any revenue generated by a price on carbon be allocated to a carbon reduction fund, that any scheme be national in scope to avoid duplication and that early adopters such as the forest industry be recognized. FPAC also works closely with our colleagues in the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations. Together we are calling on governments and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to establish a clear policy structure for the use of forest biomass that reduces the risk of investment, and encourages innovation and the future competitiveness of our industry. We are also calling for market-based mechanisms capable of valuing mitigation actions that will incentivize the industry to continue taking action on climate change.
The message Canada takes to Paris must clearly demonstrate that Canada, supported by its forest sector, is willing, able and ready right now to not only tackle climate change within our borders but will help other countries reduce GHG emissions and meet their responsibility by selling sustainable wood products and working with our international counterparts on sound climate policy. We believe this approach will further establish and solidify Canada as a respected and proactive global leader in addressing climate change.

Prime Minister Trudeau, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna and to provincial governments as well: As an industry that represents 12 per cent of Canada’s manufacturing GDP, we are here to help. No other sector is better positioned to growing a greener tomorrow.