Sierra Club BC calls on provincial government to end silence about skyrocketing forest emissions
B.C. government’s own data show total greenhouse gas emissions for 2018 are more than three times larger than official numbers, when including uncounted emissions from “forest management”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 3, 2020
In early August the B.C. government shared a media release and data file showing B.C.’s official 2018 greenhouse gas emissions had increased by three percent compared to 2017, from 65.7 million tonnes of CO2 in 2017 to 68 million tonnes in 2018.
Not mentioned in the release but vital, the government’s own data shows emissions from provincial forest management reached 237 million tonnes of carbon dioxide—more than three times the “official” amount counted. (Uncounted climate pollution is referred to as “emissions not included in inventory” in the province’s data file.)
Sierra Club BC calls on the B.C. government to:
- end the silence around uncounted and skyrocketing forest management emissions;
- declare a forest climate emergency and
- take immediate steps to reduce forest emissions by protecting forests and improving forest management using the best available science and Indigenous knowledge.
When combined, counted and uncounted annual emissions for 2018 add up to 305 million tonnes, with uncounted forest emissions representing a staggering 78 percent. These emissions are caused by clearcut logging, slash burning and worsening climate impacts like wildfires and insect outbreaks.
“The provincial government’s silence about the carbon bomb unleashed from B.C.’s forests is deafening. It is unacceptable for the B.C. government to defend business as usual logging practices while ignoring the exploding growth of emissions from forest management,“ said Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting.
2017 and 2018 were record-breaking wildfire years, made worse by continued clearcut logging. Research in Australia—where forests and communities were impacted by devastating fires earlier this year—shows that fires were worse in forest landscapes already damaged by industrial logging. In contrast, old-growth forests can better withstand climate impacts, protect communities from climate impacts and often survive forest fires, as did some of California’s Redwood forests this summer.
Despite these findings, old-growth logging continues in B.C. at a rate of about 500 soccer fields per day. This spring, the B.C. government received a report from an old-growth panel tasked with developing recommendations on old-growth management. The province is expected to release this report in the near future, but it remains unclear whether they will respond with meaningful steps to protect old-growth.
“British Columbians expect climate action leadership addressing all provincial emissions, not just one fifth of them. We cannot save a livable climate without saving our forests,” said Wieting.
The most endangered old-growth forests with the biggest trees hold the greatest amount of carbon per hectare. This means, in addition to preserving intact ecosystems, they offer the greatest benefit when protected by avoiding massive carbon losses from clearcutting. Yet, B.C.’s climate action plan CleanBC does not address forest emissions or state any reduction targets or actions related to them.
“It is not too late for the B.C. government to amend CleanBC to make sure it addresses forest emissions as part of its efforts towards an economic recovery strategy post COVID-19,” added Wieting.
Forest conservation and improved forestry are opportunities to support communities and create jobs that reduce carbon pollution. This can be accomplished through support for Indigenous-led conservation solutions, a shift from raw log exports to value-added wood product manufacturing, restored government stewardship, ecoforestry and restoration initiatives.
“We can ‘Build Back Better’ in a way that centres communities, a livable climate, all living beings and the ecosystems which sustain us,” added Wieting. “The province can take the first step by taking immediate action to safeguard endangered old-growth forests in response to the provincial old-growth panel report.”
Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Links to references mentioned in this release:
Provincial media release regarding BC’s 2018 emissions
Provincial GHG emissions data for 2018
Sierra Club BC report “Hidden, Ignored and Growing” calling for a BC forest emissions report (2019)
Nature article “Recent Australian wildfires made worse by logging and associated forest management”
Photo: Emily Hoffpauir/Wilderness Committee