Leaning in by leading the way: Canada’s forest Sector embraces UN Sustainable Development Goals and WEF’s 2020 core focus on fighting climate change

January 21, 2020

As political and business leaders descend on Davos-Klosters (Switzerland) for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, issues related to climate change are looming larger than normal over this year’s gathering. It’s not just the official theme of “Stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world” that has set the tone so succinctly. It’s the evidence that is most convincing this year, and a feeling that the world is running out of time to reverse course. And on this point, the facts speak for themselves.

Dire warnings from the latest UN report on the environment in November 2019 say that as the world warms, we will see more frequent and intense climate impacts such as the catastrophic heatwaves and storms we are witnessing. The report calls on global business leaders, investors, and citizens to “Lean in” and engage in a collective global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Canada is an undisputed global leader in sustainable forest management. For more than 100 years, the forest sector has played a fundamental role in Canada’s economy- forests are part of our history,our geography, our homes, and our transportation. Today, the sector is in the midst of a transformation that is bringing innovative new products,diversified markets, enhanced environmental credentials, and a skilled workforce.   The time is now for Canada to play a leading role in helping to address climate change by using our forests for solutions to the most pressing social, environmental and economic challenges in history.  

Canada has the third-largest forested area in the world – 347 million hectares represent nine per cent of the globe’s total. The strict rules and regulations we operate under combined with the commitment of Canadian forestry workers to sustainability means that we will keep our forests as forests forever.  We harvest less than 0.5% of our forests each year – and we replace what we harvest.At their essence, forests capture and store carbon. The responsible use of wood fibre can expand this carbon sink beyond the forests to the products. The unique carbon sequestration potential of forests and forest products is gaining broad recognition, which elevates the role of forests and wood fibre products in addressing climate change.

Some 120 countries have committed to climate change mitigation and adaptation measures by 2030 that include leveraging the power of our forests and forest products.  Here at home,the forest sector is helping Canada move to a lower-carbon economy by removing 30 megatonnes (MT) of CO2 per year by 2030, more than 13% of the Canadian government’s emissions target under The Paris Agreement.

As we plan for a future that is more sustainable and in which no one is left behind, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide us with some useful guideposts.  Things like access to and use of land and water, climate change, consumption and production patterns, energy supply and inclusive development are essential to our collective health and sustainability.  These key principles are also deeply embedded and reflected in Canada’s forest management practices, and can help us address many of the challenges that the SDGs aim to solve.  

Earlier this year, Canada’s forest sector - with other forward-thinking members of the International Forest Solutions Group - committed to deliver the ambitions that sit at the heart of the SDGs. In Canada, the UN goals help us navigate the challenges arising from climate change, natural resource constraints,technological innovation, urbanization, demographic shifts, and changes in consumer behaviour. At the same time, our Global Forest Sector roadmap ensures that we continue to grow and thrive in line with the SDGs.

We know that effective planning, true collaboration and action prevents more frequent and more devastating fires that are dramatically altering boreal forests and emitting more carbon. It’s an indication of how our industry – as a national and global actor - is responding to societal and environmental megatrends that are transforming our world. Sustainably managed forests also play a critical role in addressing the environmental impacts of droughts, floods, storms and forest fires.At the same time, Canada’s Forest Bioeconomy Framework is helping increase the use of forest biomass throughout the economy. As well, it is helping Canadians meet other priorities including clean technology innovation,green infrastructure, and green job creation.

In addition to our environmental contributions, Canada’s forest sector provides more than 230,000 direct jobs across Canada. We call over 600 communities “home” and create family-supporting jobs in all regions of the country, including rural and remote communities, mid-sized cities and large urban centres, and in 400 Indigenous communities. Canada’s forest sector is also a $73.6-billion-a-year industry, representing 8% of the country’s manufacturing and 7% of Canada’s total exports.  

Our workers are uniquely positioned to drive the transition to a low-carbon and circular future rooted in renewable, natural resources in Canada. We stand ready to demonstrate leadership, apply creativity, and share our innovative solutions so that everyone can achieve a sustainable, resilient and inclusive future. Canada’s forest sector is ready to “lean in” by leading the way. And as we’re seeing in Davos this week, leaders around the world are ready too.

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