Making the Case for Innovation in Forestry
Prince George, B.C.- There is great potential for new wood fibre products and growing markets in non-traditional product areas says Derek Nighbor, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada and the potential can be realized with some support from the senior levels of Government.
He says from bio-energy to taller buildings made of wood, and even real wooden consoles for Lincolns, there are numerous opportunities. Nighbor is outlining some of those opportunities to a meeting of Canada’s Ministers of Forests in Dawson City, Yukon today.
The whole idea of forestry innovation aligns with the Federal Government’s thinking on climate change says Nighbor “Innovation in the forest sector really does help contribute to the whole issues of climate change. The intersection of innovation and climate change presents a very powerful opportunity for the Canadian forest product sector.”
But new products and market growth rely on one factor, a sustainable forest. With the recent decimation by the Mountain Pine beetle, the Spruce beetle threat, and dry conditions which make wildfires ravage hundreds of thousands of hectares of woodland, climate change is a major concern says Nighbor “What are the impacts of the changing climate in terms of acess to fibre, access to quality fibre?” He believes the forestry sector has valuable experience to share in terms of what climate change is doing to the forestry sector “But we also can be part of the solution in terms of some of the improved practices in the forest, in terms of greater efficiencies at the mills, and our ability to deliver, new innovative environmentally friendly products.”
The Forest Products Association of Canada has committed to a plan to remove 30 megatonnes of CO2 a year by 2030, that’s more than 13% of the Federal Government’s emissions reduction target. He says it starts by focusing on how every part of a tree can be used in a value added way “So part of the work in the forest is going to be getting away from slashing and burning, it’s finding other uses for every part of that tree.The other opportunity is in genomics in terms of higher yield forests more resistant species, those kind of things. That’s one part of the contribution. ” He says the other part is work at the mills where new efficiencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions significantly since the early 1990s, largely because of the elimination of beehive burners and the closure of some mills “A lot of the heavy lifting has been done.”
He says the 30 by 30 plan “Was not something that was developed on the back of a napkin, We worked in detail with the Canadian Forest Service, we worked with the R&D folks in our member companies and we ran this by some of our third party experts and people we know in the academic field, so it’s ambitious, it’s pretty comprehensive.” They have pledged to report out the numbers annually.
The Federal Government had pledged a billion dollars over the next four years for innovation in the resource sector, Nighbor is pressing to ensure some of that funding will find its way to forestry innovation “There is a clear innovation play to ensure Canada is staying on top of and on the leading edge in bringing some of these new products to market.”
Nighbor will be on a panel at the International BioEnergy conference taking place in Prince George next week from the 15th to the 17th. “The main message I will be bringing is about the opportunity that does exist in bioenergy”. While B.C. is a leader in bio-energy, he says there is more that can be done ” I will present the possibilities that exist and why innovation is critical to growing the industry and making sure we have good forestry jobs in the future in BC.”