A new report on reducing community climate risks through forest protection and a paradigm shift in forest management.
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 4, 2020
An independent scientists’ report released today—B.C.’s Old-Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity—shows in detail how shockingly little is left of B.C.’s most endangered old-growth forests, in particular those with very big trees. Of the little that remains, only a small fraction is protected from logging.
“This report shows that things are worse than we thought for B.C.’s ancient giants,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner. “These big old and ancient trees existed for thousands of years and 100 years of industrial logging has cut all but three percent. Every natural system has a breaking point and we have reached it.”
Sierra Club BC supports the report authors in calling on the B.C. government to ‘stop the bleed’ and ‘immediately place a moratorium on logging in ecosystems and landscapes with very little old forest.’
“Only about 35,000 hectares of old-growth forests with very big old trees remain across the province, and only a portion have effective protection. We are losing a legacy and all the environmental services that these forests provide for community and human health,” said Wieting. “It is unconscionable that the last remaining big old trees are still being logged as a result of what the report authors call ‘loopholes, gaming, arithmetic errors and simple lack of monitoring.’”
The authors also found that many old-growth management areas, created to protect old-growth forests, do not actually contain old forest.
“In B.C. we have these globally unique old-growth forest ecosystems and our analysis shows they are almost at their endpoint,” said Dr. Rachel Holt, one of the scientists who wrote the report together with Dr. Karen Price and Dave Daust. “We wrote this report under our own steam because government information was either misleading or not making it out to the public. The current management approach utterly fails to protect the ecological health of productive old-growth. We need to change our approach and manage for resilience—for communities, jobs and ecosystems—and not wait to transition until the last big old trees are gone”
“These scientists have painted a stark picture and the fate of these big ancient trees is in our hands. The B.C. government has the opportunity to make conservation and environmental restoration a cornerstone of the COVID-19 economic recovery with a vision for healthy communities, healthy ecosystems and preventing future disasters,” said Wieting. “Investing in forest conservation and improved forestry will create long-term jobs, support the health and wellbeing of B.C. residents, and defend our communities from climate impacts like flooding and drought. This can be accomplished through support for Indigenous-led conservation solutions, ecosystem restoration, investments in government stewardship and a shift to ecoforestry.”
The report’s detailed analysis for all types of provincial forests shows that forests with big old trees never covered more than about ten percent of B.C.’s total forest cover (approximately 50 million hectares, more than half of the province). Only about eight percent (approximately 415,000 hectares) of the original extent of these intact forests with big trees remain as old-growth today across the province. In the case of those forests with very big old trees, only about three percent remain today (approximately 35,000 hectares).
Intact old-growth forests are more resilient than degraded forests and can best protect communities from climate impacts like water shortage, flooding, extreme rainfall and the dangers of landslides identified in B.C.’s 2019 Climate Risk Assessment Report.
The provincial government has opportunities to protect old-growth forests through COVID-19 economic recovery initiatives, logging moratoria, the creation of new protected areas, and amendments to provincial forestry laws and regulations that restore the ecological integrity of B.C.’s forests and close loopholes. Old-growth forests can also be protected by enacting a science-based old-growth strategy in response to the provincial old-growth panel review and implementing an endangered species act.
B.C.’s Old-Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity: https://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/bcs-old-growth-forest-a-last-stand-for-biodiversity-report-2020.pdf
Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Photo: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance
A new independent scientists’ report shows in detail how shockingly little is left of B.C.’s most endangered old-growth forests.
In our latest report, we’ve found that ending clearcutting of forests is as important for BC climate action as phasing out fossil fuels.