With wildfires and floods raging around the world, it is clear that we need bold climate action. Learn why forests are our best climate ally and how you can stand up for old-growth today.
B.C. clearcuts releasing more carbon than they absorb form a total area larger than Vancouver Island
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 12, 2019
For British Columbia, phasing out clearcutting—particularly in old-growth forests—with a transition to reformed forestry that prioritizes ecosystem services is as important for climate action as phasing out the use of all fossil fuels. This is the key finding of a new report and map by Sierra Club BC about the future of forests in B.C. that highlights the full impact of clearcut logging on climate change.
Areas clearcut across B.C. between 2005 and 2017 total 3.6 million hectares, a combined area larger than Vancouver Island. These areas—more than 1.9 million hectares of logged old-growth and close to 1.7 million hectares of logged second-growth—are “sequestration dead zones”: clearcut lands that release more carbon than they absorb.
For thirteen years after clearcutting, the carbon released into the atmosphere from decomposing organic matter and exposed soils is more than the carbon captured by the growth of young trees. In other words, it takes thirteen years for young trees to have a net effect of capturing carbon. In the meantime, clearcut areas remain “sequestration dead zones.”
“At a time when we urgently need to be reducing all forms of carbon pollution to defend our communities from the climate crisis, clearcut logging in B.C. is making the problem notably worse,” said Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting and author of the report. “We can only have a stable climate if we protect intact forests, and we can only sustain intact forests if we stabilize the climate. Both are only possible if we reform forestry and give up clearcutting.”
According to the latest provincial data, annual emissions from logging are 42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂). In addition, B.C. loses the carbon capture potential of the forests that are clearcut. Sierra Club BC’s analysis shows that, because of clearcutting, more than 26 million tonnes of CO₂ per year remain in the atmosphere that could have been removed had the forests not been clearcut. Taken together, the combined negative impacts of clearcut logging in B.C. on the climate are greater than officially reported provincial carbon emissions, which are about 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, primarily from burning fossil fuels. This makes ending clearcutting as important for provincial climate action as phasing out fossil fuels.
Yet forest emissions are largely ignored because they are not counted as part of B.C.’s official emissions in provincial greenhouse gas inventories.
Based on the 2018 Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all jurisdictions must reduce by half emissions from all sources by 2030 to have a reasonable chance of preventing catastrophic global heating.
“Business as usual in forests will worsen the climate crisis,” said Wieting. “By clearcutting old-growth and older forests, we’re fuelling more global heating. We’re putting at risk the future of communities, the forests that remain standing and current and future forestry jobs. It’s not too late for the B.C. government to reform forestry laws so that forest stewardship helps in tackling the climate crisis.”
Sierra Club BC is calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a funding shift towards forest conservation and improved forest management. Action is urgently needed before worsening climate impacts coupled with destructive logging practices further intensify pressure on ecosystems. Sierra Club BC’s recommendations are to:
- Protect and restore endangered old-growth forest ecosystems through forestry law reform, modernized land use plans and new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs);
- Restore government capacity for monitoring and research, investment in restoration of intact forests and reforestation; and
- Support communities and companies that want to improve forest management and value-added wood products, creating more jobs and less damage per cubic metre of wood. Forests can be harvested selectively in a manner that reduces carbon losses to a minimum or retains more carbon in forests.
Globally, old-growth forests in B.C. are among the ecosystems with the highest carbon storage per hectare, and with the biggest and oldest trees.
“As the 25th UN climate summit ends this week, B.C. is maintaining its unfortunate reputation as the Brazil of the North. It’s turning Canada’s world class temperate rainforests from the coast to the interior into a Swiss cheese pattern of clearcuts at a time when the world needs global leadership on forest protections to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D, President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon.
“Local governments across Canada are reducing their emissions as quickly as possible. But given how much climate change will cost us, we also need to address the growing carbon losses and impacts that come from bad forestry practices,” said Rik Logtenberg, Nelson city councillor and chair of the Climate Caucus, a network of 240 elected local leaders across Canada. “Clearcutting the forests that surround our communities can have serious impacts on watersheds, dirtying drinking water and putting us at greater risk from flooding, landslides, droughts and wildfire. We need provincial leadership to reduce all emissions, including those from forestry, and we need reformed forestry laws to protect and restore forests as a natural defence against climate change.”
Clearcut Carbon: A Sierra Club BC report on the future of forests in British Columbia (full report and executive summary): www.sierraclub.bc.ca/clearcutcarbon
Editors/Producers: Photo and video footage of old-growth forests and forest destruction is located at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ie48VmdMwCcVS9Q6GqbTDzxao_Fq1zUY
For media inquiries:
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist, Geos Institute
Rik Logtenberg, Nelson City Councillor and Chair, Climate Caucus
Photo: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance
In our latest report, we’ve found that ending clearcutting of forests is as important for BC climate action as phasing out fossil fuels.
In this latest video, our Climate and Conservation Campaigner Mark Worthing powerfully speaks about the importance of forests.
Fall 2019-January 2020
The BC government has appointed an independent panel to engage the public on the ecological, economic and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests.
We encourage all British Columbia residents to write to the panel to express their views on old-growth forests. Their processes aren’t great, but we have to use this opportunity to press hard on the need to protect old-growth right now, not later. With old-growth forests in peril in this province, it’s important that our voices be heard, because urgent action is necessary.
This is what the panel has asked to hear from the public:
-What old-growth means to you and how you value it
-Your perspective on how old-growth is managed now
-How you think old-growth could be managed more effectively in the future
Have your say before January 31
Feedback can be sent by filling out the questionnaire or emailing written submissions and it is due by 4pm on Friday January 31. Scroll down for info resources you can use in writing your response. Responses written in your own words will be given more weight, so please write from the heart about why it’s important to you to protect old-growth.
Fill out the questionnaire: https://feedback.engage.gov.bc.ca/747451?lang=en
Please note that you are able to skip questions. There is a text box at the end of the questionnaire to share your reasoning and any additional thoughts on old-growth protection.
You can learn more about the Strategic Review process here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth/
You can also join Sierra Club BC supporters in completing the survey or writing a letter at one of our letter-writing parties:
- Victoria at the Fernwood Inn (1302 Gladstone Avenue) Tuesday January 28, 5:30-7pm. RSVP on Facebook
- Richmond on January 19, 4-7pm. Email email@example.com for the address. RSVP on Facebook
Bring a laptop if you have one. If you don’t, there will be extra laptops to use.
Information on Old-Growth Forests
We have prepared a set of resources on old-growth forests in BC and encourage you to view it to help inform your viewpoint.
- Our Old-Growth Forest Fact Sheet
- Our forest webinar series (see “Old-Growth Update” for a webinar specifically about this review process)
- Sierra Club BC’s forest campaign website, with a wealth of links to resources, media releases, fact sheets and maps.
- Our old-growth media backgrounder
- Our Clearcut Carbon report and a recent report from Dr. Jim Pojar, which show the value of old-growth for storing carbon to address the climate crisis
- Latest polling data (9 in 10 British Columbians Support Protecting Old-Growth)
Legal changes are needed to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in forestry laws in order to respect Indigenous jurisdiction and governance, support Indigenous-led conservation, and support economic alternatives for Nations that seek to protect more land. We encourage supporters to gain an understanding of UNDRIP and to learn about Indigenous law with resources from UVic’s Indigenous Law Research Unit.
The panel is made up of two people: Garry Merkel (forester and member of the Tahltan Nation in Northwestern BC) and Al Gorley (forester). They have a history of working with industry and government. They insist that they will be truly independent and will develop their recommendations without censorship from the provincial government.
Their mandate is to listen and to summarize what they hear, reporting back to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) in spring 2020 with “recommendations that are expected to inform a new approach to old-growth management for British Columbia.”
Call for Bold Changes to Forestry Laws Too
The BC government has also been thinking about how to improve the way forests are managed in BC. Soon, through a separate process, it’ll be revealing changes to the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA).
Changes to forestry laws need to include protections for old-growth. Let’s make sure this government gets the message that intact forests are important for bears and salmon, for Indigenous peoples, for storing carbon and for protecting communities in the face of climate change.
Photo: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance
In our diverse province, 92% of people agreeing with each other on anything is nearly unheard of. But British Columbians have spoken.