Climate advocates gather outside Minister Wilkinson’s office with message from nearly 100,000 people: Stop clearcutting forests for energy burned abroad
October 19, 2023
səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, B.C.) — Environmental advocacy groups and climate activists gathered outside Minister John Wilkinson’s North Vancouver office today to deliver a strong message from nearly 100,000 people: It’s time for the Canadian government to stop subsidizing the forest biomass industry. The event was part of the International Day of Action on Big Biomass, with groups in at least 15 countries on six continents sounding the alarm ahead of COP28 on November 30 in Dubai, where the global renewable energy target will be on the agenda.
Canada is currently the second-largest exporter of forest biomass in the world. The forest biomass industry, including international energy giant Drax that operates processing facilities in British Columbia, ships wood pellets made from forests in Canada to overseas power utilities (primarily to the United Kingdom and Japan), where they are burned for electricity. The industry says that burning wood pellets is a climate-friendly, carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuels, but climate experts worldwide have repeatedly disproved this claim. On top of this, there is clear evidence that wood pellets are produced from logged whole trees from primary and old growth forests in British Columbia.
“Burning wood pellets emits more CO2 at the stack than coal – before even counting the loss of carbon from the destruction and degradation of forests,” said Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner at environmental advocacy organization Stand.Earth. “Canada wants to be seen as a climate leader, but we cannot burn our way out of the climate crisis. A true climate solution means we must protect standing forests, especially now when we need to be cutting carbon, not trees.”
In a 2022 investigative report, Stand.earth demonstrated that the governments of Canada and British Columbia base their support for the wood pellet export industry on faulty carbon accounting, poor scientific evidence, weak regulations, and land use planning that fails to protect old growth forests and threatened species habitat. The report featured satellite and drone imagery proving that whole trees from primary and old growth forests in British Columbia are logged and used to produce wood pellets that are burned abroad for energy.
The growing wood pellet export sector risks business as usual industrial operations on Indigenous territories, with varying levels of collaborative management and consent based decision-making across the country. Looking ahead to COP28, climate experts have also pointed out that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s carbon accounting mechanism as deeply flawed, because it does not count the emissions produced when biomass is burned at the smokestack, effectively letting wealthy countries in the Global North shirk responsibility for reducing emissions.
“After an unprecedented, devastating wildfire season in Canada, it’s essential that we protect forests and name biomass for what it is – a false climate solution,” said Richard Robertson, Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “Canada should urgently revise national carbon accounting methods, in line with recommendations from leading scientists, and end public subsidies for the wood pellet export industry.”
Federal and provincial governments must work in full partnership with Indigenous Nations, adhere to inherent and treaty rights, and prioritize full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) relating to all forestry, including biomass — or the growth of the wood pellet sector could further erode land rights.
Stand.earth is calling on Minister Wilkinson and the Canadian government to stop subsidizing forest biomass, ensure forests are not logged to produce wood pellets, and support international efforts to close carbon accounting loopholes that have propped up biomass as a false climate solution.
For more on the International Day of Action on Big Biomass click here.
Kathryn Semogas, Canada Forest Communications Specialist, Stand.earth (English): (778) 653-2303, firstname.lastname@example.org (ET)
Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner, Stand.earth (English, French): email@example.com (PT)