Risky business: Canada props up wood pellet export as a false climate solution

April 23, 2020

New investigation reveals industry’s true impacts on pollution and forests.

Unceded Lheidli T’enneh Territory (Prince George, BC) and Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — A new investigation is sounding the alarm about the threat of Canada’s growing wood pellet export industry to forests and the climate. 

A report released today by Stand.earth documents how wood pellets (‘biomass’) are being made from whole trees sourced in British Columbia’s inland rainforests. They are then exported to overseas markets like the UK and Japan where they are burned for power generation. Burning biomass emits more greenhouse gases than burning coal, and research demonstrates that net emissions can remain elevated for over a century.

“The science is clear: now is the time to be protecting forests, not shipping them overseas to be burned for dirty energy,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Programs Director for Stand.earth. “We know that more and more whole trees are going into wood pellet production. The B.C. government is propping up a destructive industry and misleading the public about its climate impacts.”

New photographs provided by Conservation North show redcedars from BC’s globally unique inland rainforest being trucked into Pacific BioEnergy’s pellet plant. 

“Wood pellets are obviously the worst and lowest use of our last primary forests in the interior. The B.C. government assured us that green trees would not be used in pellet plants, and clearly that’s not true,” said Michelle Connolly, Director of Conservation North. “Using forests for pellets shows a lack of commitment to true sustainability for our communities.

The use of wood pellets for “renewable” energy production has grown due the provision of massive subsidies both by Canada and by importing countries; in fact, Canada is now the world’s second largest exporter of wood pellets. Unfortunately, flawed emissions accounting and devastating impacts on forests mean that this industry is one of the most polluting in the world. 

“Wood-burning biomass is the worst carbon polluter of all, worse than coal, worse than oil, and worse than gas,” said Mary Booth, Director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity. “Forests need to be protected as part of a global solution to the climate crisis. There is no path to achieving our climate goals if we continue to burn forests instead of conserving and expanding them.”

Canada and British Columbia are subsidizing the development of wood pellet exports and touting them as a climate solution. The reality is that this ‘solution’ is based on faulty carbon accounting, poor scientific evidence, and weak regulations, and fails to protect old growth forests or species habitat.

“We are already facing the immediacy of the Covid-19 crisis, we cannot afford to make the climate and biodiversity crises worse,” said Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner for Stand.earth. “B.C. needs to invest in real solutions for our communities, instead of liquidating remaining forests for a hugely polluting industry.”

Stand.earth and Conservation North are calling on the provincial government to stop subsidizing the wood pellet industry and to work with Indigenous Nations and local communities to expand protection for intact and old growth forests.


Media contacts: 

Ziona Eyob, Canadian Communications Manager, canadamedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (PST)
Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner, tegan@stand.earth, +1 250 354 3302 (PST)
Michelle Connolly, Director, Conservation North, info@conservationnorth.org, +1 778 349 3667 (PST)
Mary Booth, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity, mbooth@pfpi.net, +1 917 885 2573 (PST)


Interviews available in English and French