The Ministry’s Answers

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1One June 8, Sierra Club BC released their report  BC forest wake-up call.  I responded by requesting an interview with Jens Wieting, of the Sierra Club, and shooting off a list of questions to the Ministry of Forests. As I published my interview with Wieting yesterday, it seems appropriate to publish the Ministry’s answers as a Q&A today.

1. BC’s Forests Emitting Carbon

Photo Credit: Path through forest in Squirrel Cove by Roy L Hales
Photo Credit: Path through forest in Squirrel Cove by Roy L Hales

According to Sierra Club BC, “B.C. forests have been releasing dramatically more carbon into the atmosphere than they have absorbed out of the atmosphere, for a full decade.”

My Questions:

  • Their analysis is based on your figures. Do you agree B.C.’s forests emitted 256 million tonnes of carbon dioxide during the period 2003 – 2012.
  • If this is true, why are forest emissions are not counted as part of the official greenhouse gas emissions of the province.

The Ministry’s response:

First of all, the ministry would like to thank the Sierra Club and its members for their participation in the ongoing conversation about B.C.’s forest ecosystems, policies and practices. This is especially true in the field of forest carbon, which is technical and complex.

The ministry knows that B.C. forests  have been a net source of carbon to the atmosphere from 2003-2012. The value of 256 million tonnes net emissions is lower than reported in the 1990-2012 Provincial Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, but in the same ballpark. The 1990-2013 Provincial GHG Inventory Report tables, to be published shortly, will provide official estimates of decomposition emissions from harvested wood products.

Forest emissions are included in the Inventory Report because they are an important part of the carbon cycle in B.C. Having them as a memo item is consistent with national and international carbon accounting rules.

The international community does not hold B.C. accountable for natural disturbances such as forest fires and the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Therefore, to include forest ecosystems in climate change mitigation targets, we need to use a different accounting method. As stated in the Inventory Report, B.C. is considering adopting new international rules that would exclude natural carbon sources and some sinks. Federally, Canada has used these new rules and counted the forests as a carbon sink in assessing our progress towards the 2020 Copenhagen targets.

(RLH – Both the increase in the number & size of wildfires, and the pine beetle epidemic, are responsible for increased emissions. They are also both associated with Climate Change.)

2. Amount of Carbon Stored in Wood

From cut of 1992 by Roy L Hales
From cut of 1992 by Roy L Hales

Sierra Club says, “A number of studies indicate that 15–30 percent of carbon remains stored in wood products after logging.”

My Question: If this is true, why is the province introducing a factor of 52 percent to account for carbon stored in wood products?  According to the Sierra Club, “This appears to be too high and will downplay emissions from logging, especially in the light of the destructive logging practices common in B.C. which cause a lot of wood waste and carbon loss.”

The Ministry’s response:

The Sierra Club number for storage of carbon in wood products is the amount stored for the next 100 years. Their factor of 0.23 is consistent with the BC Forest Carbon Offset Protocol, which requires sinks to remain for 100 years.

Recent scientific publications have found that about 65% of our harvested biomass ends up in wood and paper products, with about 35% being used for bioenergy:

Annual emissions reporting is about the carbon sinks and sources on a per-year basis – not a 100-year basis. Therefore, emissions from wood and paper products will be accounted for as they occur; carbon stored in harvested wood products will be reported as it is emitted (not at the time of harvest) while wood used for bioenergy will be treated as an immediate emission. These estimates will be based on scientific models rather than an emission factor.

3. Serra Club BC’s Proposal

Path Through Whaletown Commons by Roy L Hales

Sierra Club reports “B.C’.s auditor general reported in 2014 that the provincial government had given the oil and gas industry $1.25 – billion in credits over about five years ($1 billion in the last two fiscal years 2012/13 and 2013/14).

My Question: What do you think of Sierra Club BC recommendation that BC phase out this support and “instead set aside $1 billion to develop and implement a 5-year plan to restore B.C.’s forest’s function as a carbon sink, create forestry jobs and ensure the province’s preparedness for climate change impacts by restoring healthy forests, intact watersheds, habitat to allow species a better chance to adapt to the changing climate and ensure timber supply for the future.”

The Ministry’s response:

As evidenced in the 2015 Speech from the Throne, the Province is committed to maintaining a competitive forest sector. This includes creating jobs, restoring lands impacted by mountain pine beetle and forest fires, ensuring long-term timber supply and ensuring best utilization of residual fibre left after harvest.

Since 2005, the Province has invested over $348 million in a program to restore B.C.’s forests called “Forests For Tomorrow.” In addition, millions of dollars are spent each year in suppressing wildfires, themselves sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Specific to carbon, we have enabled forest carbon offset projects on Crown land and have developed the Forest Carbon Partnership Program to facilitate enhancing sinks and reducing emissions.

We are working to ensure long-term competitiveness by managing the risks regarding future climate uncertainty through the FLNR Climate Change Strategy (2013-2018)and the B.C. Forest Stewardship Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation.

(RLH – Which appears to be a “no” to  the Sierra Club’s proposal)

All Photos from Cortes Island & taken by Roy L Hales 

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