MPs push for logging emissions reporting
Current tracking system is ‘difficult to understand’
KATE ALLEN CLIMATE CHANGE REPORTER
Every year, the federal government reports how much the logging industry contributes to our economy: $34.8 billion of Canada’s GDP in 2021, according to the latest figures.
But how much does that sector contribute to the climate crisis? The answer is hazy, because of what environmental groups, scientists, and Ottawa’s environment commissioner have described as a lack of transparency around the federal government’s emissions reporting.
Now a group of more than 25 MPs and senators, including nine Liberals, have added their names to the growing chorus of calls to change how emissions from logging are tracked, saying the current system
is “undermining public accountability and creating a hidden subsidy for carbon pollution from the sector.”
In an open letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, the parliamentarians note that Canada is not on track to meet its 2030 greenhouse-gas emission reduction targets, and that “stronger action” is needed to get there, buttressed by accurate and transparent reporting.
“I felt it was important to sign the open letter because the accurate collection of data is extremely important in our fight against climate change,” said Sen. Rosa Galvez. “Having just witnessed the most devastating wildfire season of our country’s history, we can’t afford to misrepresent our logging industry data. We must manage our forests and logging industry using the best available data.”
For every other sector listed in climate reports, carbon emissions are tracked by looking at how many tonnes of emissions that sector produces now compared to a baseline year, 2005.
Heavy industry, for example, contributed 12 fewer megatonnes of carbon to the atmosphere in 2021 than it did in 2005, whereas the oil and gas industry contributed 21 megatonnes more.
This reporting is necessary for Canadians to understand which sectors are fastest and slowest to decarbonize, but also to meet our international obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Logging is tracked differently. In April, Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development released a report that detailed how emissions from the sector are split up and scattered through different parts of the country’s reporting, making it impractical to calculate the impacts as a whole. The way Canada calculates the effects of forests on its emissions progress, the commissioner found, is increasingly out of step with other countries and is “difficult to understand and lacks transparency.”
In addition to nine Liberals, the letter was signed by MPs from the NDP and Green Party. No Conservatives or representatives of the Bloc Québécois signed it.
“It’s essential that we have an accurate accounting of our forest emissions if we’re going to meet our climate goals. And if we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, we cannot allow this government to keep under-reporting emissions,” said NDP environment critic Laurel Collins, who signed the letter.
The letter was circulated by Nature Canada, who co-authored a report published last year with the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council that tried to estimate the true emissions associated with the logging sector.
Using publicly available data published by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada, they calculated that logging produces 75 megatonnes of carbon annually — about 10 per cent of Canada’s total annual emissions in 2020.
The environment commissioner’s report notes that while the departments dispute that figure, they haven’t provided an alternative one.
“Having clarity about what emissions industries are responsible for is critical to putting in place effective policies to reduce those emissions,” says Michael Polanyi, policy and campaign manager at Nature Canada.
“Right now, the big problem is if you look at the emission reduction plan, you don’t see anything that indicates that the logging industry has a significant carbon footprint.”
‘‘ If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, we cannot allow this government to keep under-reporting emissions.
MP LAUREL COLLINS NDP ENVIRONMENT CRITIC
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited