With the federal election now behind us, the new prime minister can and must promote the economy and the environment in the first few weeks of his mandate. The foundation for both future economic stability and environmental sustainability will be laid for decades to come based on two significant global initiatives — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was reached Oct. 5 after seven years of negotiations, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.
As the representative of an industry that directly supports 230,000 well-paid jobs across Canada and is a world leader in green, sustainable forest practices, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) fully understands that economic and environmental policies are inextricably linked and cannot be viewed in isolation.
Giving legislative approval to the TPP will give our industry a historic opportunity to further improve access to rapidly growing markets in the Asia-Pacific region. Free trade in forest products will help the forest sector reach its ambitious Vision2020 goals of generating an additional $20 billion in economic activity and refreshing the workforce with 60,000 new recruits. These are well-paying, middle-class jobs in communities right across the country. However, the TPP has the potential to do much more than that: It also gives us the opportunity to sell our green and sustainable forest products in more countries.
Pending an international agreement on climate that may come out of the upcoming UN Climate Conference, our industry is well positioned to gain a competitive advantage by leveraging our world-leading sustainability practices. Not only will this give us the opportunity to secure new markets, but it also gives us the chance to develop Canada’s reputation as a global leader on climate change.
Canada’s forest products industry is working hard to be part of the solution to the climate challenge. Our vast renewable forests absorb the carbon dioxide (CO2) that causes climate change and this role of sequestering carbon continues in wood products. This includes everything from car parts to green chemicals to engineered construction materials that can replace items with a heavier carbon footprint such as plastics, concrete and steel. The sector has also reduced its dependence on fossil fuels as pulp and paper mills have cut greenhouse gas emissions by a remarkable 65 per cent since 1990.
Overall, we feel that Canada’s forest products industry is leading the world in its green practices. For example we have more than 160 million hectares of forests independently certified to follow progressive social and environmental practices (that’s 43 per cent of the world, or four times more than any other country). Canada’s forest sector is also well on its way to reach its pledge to become carbon-neutral.
At the same time, we are constantly developing new products for the growing bio-economy by extracting more value from each and every tree we harvest responsibly. FPAC wants to continue working in partnership with government to transform, innovate and produce groundbreaking products that will allow Canada’s forest sector to compete and be a global leader in the sustainable resource industry.
On Nov. 19, FPAC will host a climate change event “on the road to Paris” at the French Embassy in Ottawa. It will be one of the first significant gatherings of industry leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists and government officials since the federal election. It is our effort to continue the dialogue on how the forest products industry can help combat climate change while leveraging our world leading environmental practices to secure a prosperous future for Canadians.
Canada’s forest products industry has come a long way over the last 20 years. As leaders both environmentally and economically, we understand that the two are closely intertwined as the move to freer trade and a green low carbon economy takes centre stage across the world. The forest sector is now well positioned to help our country reach its both economic and environmental goals — no industry in Canada is more committed to growing a greener tomorrow.