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Duane Pendergast, Ph.D., P. Eng.
Principal Scientist
Monday, February 21, 2005
Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development
c/o Eugene Morawski
Room 609, 180 Wellington
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 

Re: Brief on the Role of Forests in Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory  

Dear Committee:    

I participated in the now dismantled National Climate Change Process (NCCP) as one of 450 experts representing stakeholders. Initially I was a member of the Technology Issue Table. When the “Tables” completed their work, I was one of two stakeholder members assigned to the Integrative Group. It reviewed input from Issue Tables, economic analyses, and alternative Kyoto plans prepared by the federal government. I continue to think about, and write, on issues related to Canada’s commitment to Kyoto.  

I was disappointed with the information presented to the Integrative Group on the role of forests and agriculture as potential carbon sinks. Although we requested additional testimony from experts in those sectors, very little was forthcoming. Now that time has passed more information is available to the public. It seems, from “Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990 – 2002[1]” that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions may be overestimated by up to 157 million tonnes annually. The Committee’s “Outline for a Study on Canada’s Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol – Addressing Climate Change[2]” suggests Canada might need to lower emissions by 413 million tonnes annually by 2012 to meet the Kyoto target. Perhaps revisions of the inventory methodology could substantially ease Canada’s burden.  

To elaborate, Annex 6 of the inventory report[3] establishes the basis for this possibility. Table A6-1 indicates our “managed” forests extracted 309 million tones of carbon dioxide (84,308 kt C) from the atmosphere in 2002. The carbon component is stored by the trees in growing wood. Table A6-3 shows carbon losses from the forests equivalent to 295 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (80,581 kt C) and that “Industrial roundwood harvested” holds the equivalent of 157 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (42,892 kt C). Page 165, Annex 6 states that; “Emissions from harvests are treated as though they are 100% released as CO2 to the atmosphere in the year and country of harvest. The net change in carbon stocks retained in wood products is not considered.” 

In reality, industrial roundwood is either exported to other countries or turned into lumber which is exported or built into our growing stock of houses. It is, in effect, a carbon sink which will last far beyond the Kyoto compliance period of 2008-2012. It appears a change of accounting procedure could thus reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to some 157 million tonnes per year. The responsibility for controlling carbon dioxide emissions from exported wood products would be turned over to the importing countries, where it logically belongs.  

Alternative approaches to the accounting of greenhouse gases are discussed on page 165 of the report. The authors make it clear they believe alternate accounting approaches “provide a more accurate reflection of when and where emissions and removals actually occur”.  

I do not profess to be an expert on the role of forests in greenhouse gas removals and emission. However, it appears that Canada’s experts are not satisfied with the procedures currently used to calculate net emissions from our forests. Perhaps forest and greenhouse gas inventory experts will be invited to appear before the Committee. They could explain changes to the accounting procedures to more realistically tally forest related emissions and removals.  If a change of forest related greenhouse gas accounting procedure can be implemented, Canada stands to save billions of dollars on Kyoto implementation.


Yours truly, 


Duane Pendergast, Ph.D., P. Eng.

[1] Matin, Afshin, et al, “Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990- 2002”, Greenhouse Gas Division, Environment Canada, August 2004, http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/ghg/inventory_report/1990_02_report/toc_e.cfm

[2] Williams, Tim, “Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Outline for a Study on Canada’s Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol - Addressing Climate Change: Towards a More Effective Plan”. Prepared for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, 1 November 2004, revised 17 November 2004, http://www.parl.gc.ca/committee/CommitteePublication.aspx?SourceId=98842

[3] Loc. Cit. 1


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