Sierra Club BC calls for immediate steps to reduce the danger of worsening droughts, floods and fire caused by forest destruction and climate breakdown
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 13, 2019
Sierra Club BC and forest expert Herb Hammond are calling on the B.C. government to declare a forest and climate emergency and take immediate action to protect and restore resilient forests in order to reduce the growing risk of unmanageable climate impacts for ecosystems and communities.
“We are in a climate emergency and it’s time the B.C. government acted like it. Defending our communities from floods and fires requires immediate action to reduce climate pollution and save intact forests,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC.
“Trees are essential for clean air and water, long term forestry jobs, storing carbon and protecting communities from floods and disasters,” said Wieting. “As the climate shifts into uncharted territory, only intact forests can buffer the impacts—not clearcuts, young forests and tree plantations. We need action today because in ten or twenty years we’ll need these resilient forests for survival.”
Destructive industrial logging is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the province, causing forests to shift from carbon sinks to carbon pollution sources as global heating continues. Sierra Club BC estimates that B.C.’s uncounted forest emissions from poor forest management and climate impacts are more than three times higher than officially reported provincial emissions.
“The climate emergency means we must increase protection of resilient forests like old-growth forests and intact natural forests across the province. In some parts of the forest landscape, cautious intervention like thinning to build resiliency to the climate disruption and controlled burns will be necessary. Clearcutting is never the right answer—we have to reduce our losses, not make them worse,” said forester and ecologist Herb Hammond.
Meteorologists warned at the end of May that Western Canada should be ready for a particularly hot and dry summer, after an abnormally dry spring in many regions.
Hundreds of jurisdictions in more than a dozen countries have already declared climate emergencies. Canada—and in particular B.C.—face growing risks and have a critical responsibility to declare a forest and climate emergency. No other country has more trees per person than Canada.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected that without unprecedented action, by 2040 the world will heat by about 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. As a consequence of warming of just one degree, water vapour in the atmosphere has already increased by seven per cent and changes in the jet stream have resulted in weather patterns becoming more stationary, causing longer and more extreme flooding and droughts.
These trends will only stop once the world economy has completely decarbonized, but can be significantly slowed by protecting intact natural forests, particularly old forests, that are large enough to moderate local climates and stave off the worst impacts of the climate disruption. B.C. communities are at increasing risk of climate impacts made worse by large-scale clearcutting of intact forests and destructive practices like slash burning that add to carbon emissions, all of which are causing cumulative damages in many Indigenous territories.
Moving away from destructive practices must be part of provincial climate action to increase the amount of carbon stored in forests. This will translate into more jobs and less ecosystem damage per cubic metre of wood. Solutions like increased protection and improved forest management must fully respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Sierra Club BC is calling for B.C. to declare a forest and climate emergency, recognizing the role that intact forests play in both helping slow climate change and helping defend the safety and security of B.C. communities. Two immediate first steps for the B.C. government are to:
- Develop and implement an immediate “climate impact test” for logging plans. Clearcuts currently in preparation or carried out across B.C. will increase emissions and exacerbate the climate emergency. Every hectare of newly clearcut forest leaves communities more vulnerable to flooding, wildfires and loss of clean water. Logging plans must be adjusted or cancelled as needed to address the climate emergency.
- Overhaul B.C.’s legislation and regulations governing forestry. The review currently underway needs to be significantly expanded to correct the existing corporate control of public forests. The Forest Range and Practices Act (FRPA) and associated legislation and policy need a paradigm shift from a timber-based approach to a principled ecosystem-based approach to save and restore the carbon storage function and life support systems provided by B.C.’s forests, give species and ecosystems a chance to adapt to the changing climate, and reduce deadly dangers for communities.
For more information:
Sierra Club BC photos of recent clearcuts on Vancouver Island: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94279740@N07/sets/72157698359993961
Sierra Club BC report Hidden, ignored and growing: B.C.’s forest carbon emissions:
Dr. Jim Pojar report Forestry and Carbon in B.C.:
Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner
Sierra Club BC
Forester and Ecologist
(Interviews can be arranged through Sierra Club BC)