The scientific community is abuzz with talk about sinks — the kind you have to step outside and be with nature to see. Carbon sinks are components of the ecosystem that capture and store more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than they release.
Natural carbon sinks include oceans, tees, plants, and soil. Trees capture CO2 in the atmosphere and convert it into carbon through photosynthesis. Stored carbon is environmentally neutral, which is just one reason why forests and forest products are our allies in combatting the effects of climate change and in achieving climate-change mitigation goals.
FPInnovations is collaborating with a network of research scientists and government officials in the Working Group on Forests and Climate change (WGFCC) to report on emissions and carbon stocks in land use. The group is modelling three options through which the forest industry can contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction: more intensive forest management, developing a market for bioenergy, and a combination of both.
“We have to move beyond conventional ways to reduce emissions,” says Patrick Lavoie, an FPInnovations senior sustainability scientist and WGFCC leader. “Relying on reducing emissions from transportation, industry, and buildings is reaching for low-hanging fruit. Governments are now looking at drastically cutting emissions and it’s becoming clear that society needs to apply negative-emission technologies to get there; such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and forest-based strategies geared towards products with long service lives.”
By 2030, Canada has committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels. Lavoie says that a forest-based bioeconomy can become a major player in meeting that target by replacing emissions-intensive products and energy and moving towards renewable options. This strategy will also allow the forest industry to maximize revenue from every log that’s harvested.
Canada is well positioned with its swaths of boreal forests, which cover 35 per cent of our land mass and make up nearly 10 per cent of the worlds’s forests, to take the international lead in strategic forest planning to mitigate the effects of climate change.
What does this mean for the forest industry?
Lavoie and the WGFCC want to see the forest industry capitalize on Canada’s prodigious forests to increase CO2 sequestration and to have carbon sequestration in forests and forest products recognized as a way to achieve GHG targets set for 2030 and 2050.
“The industry is typically supportive of a more active role in climate change mitigation and governments are increasingly open to considering the forest sector’s contributions,” says Lavoie.
The forest carbon sink offers part of the solution to a man-made global crisis. By intensively managing wood stocks to augment the sequestration of CO2, the forest industry will ensure its economic viability while creating a sustainable industry that contributes to reducing GHG emissions.