Premier Campbell recently travelled to Copenhagen for the 15th UN Climate Change Conference. The Premier and his government have shown exceptional leadership in terms of an agenda to address climate change.
What will Copenhagen mean for BC's forests?
Premier Campbell recently travelled to Copenhagen for the 15th UN Climate Change Conference. The Premier and his government have shown exceptional leadership in terms of an agenda to address climate change. The province has implemented a carbon tax (one of the few in the world), joined with other provinces and US states in the Western Climate Initiative, established the Pacific Carbon Trust to offset the government's carbon emissions, created a Climate Change Secretariat, and the list goes on. Curiously, however, a key issue that is radically affecting BC's carbon equation remains largely unaddressed by the government. In all of the scientific literature surrounding the issue of climate change, the topic of forests and their role in the management of the global carbon equation is paramount. And yet in BC, known across the country and around the world for its forests, the government has been remarkably silent on how it will include forests in the province's response to climate change. BC is not the only jurisdiction that is struggling to deal with its forests; many others are similarly challenged to address this critical component of a real, effective climate change strategy. From a negotiating standpoint it is perhaps logical to attempt to sidestep forests, as they present some significant challenges in terms of carbon accounting. But if this exercise is truly about more than politics and positioning, then dealing with forests is fundamental. What is the Premier's plan?
"... the topic of forests and their role in the management of the global carbon equation is paramount."
The on-the-ground capacity to implement a strategy that will preserve the potential of BC's forests to continue as a carbon reserve as well as sequester additional carbon is fast disintegrating. Although it would be hard to know it from the lack of media coverage of the issue, BC's forests are succumbing to a host of climate-related catastrophes, the most notable being the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. In turn, these catastrophes are creating further problems for the environment through increases in fires, floods, and carbon emissions from dead and dying trees. The many, many forest workers across BC, both those laid off and the few who continue to find work, are disheartened by the lack of effort to deal with the threat to the health of the forests that they have worked hard to manage and sustain for many years. Energy conservation, green technologies, cap-and-trade systems, carbon credit schemes, and conferences are no doubt, each in their own way, important to address the problem of climate change. But they will never be enough without taking into account the very real effect on the carbon equation of the precipitous decline in forest health, such as BC's forests are currently experiencing. BC has always been a leader in terms of natural forest management and forest restoration, with a proven capacity to implement large scale programs. It is time for the Premier and his government to bring the federal government onside, and go beyond the rhetoric of "zero net deforestation" and a 33% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and clearly outline how they plan to address the threat to the health of BC's forests, and to its much-heralded climate action agenda.