Missing the Forest: How Carbon Logging Loopholes Hinder Canada's Climate Leadership

Credit: River Jordan for NRDC

The Canadian boreal forest, the most carbon-dense forest in the world, is critical to the global climate, storing in its soils and vegetation twice as much carbon as exists in the world’s oil reserves. Protecting these carbon stores is a crucial pillar of our fight against climate change.

Yet, each year, industrial logging erodes the Canadian boreal’s value for the climate, cutting down more than one million acres of the forest to turn it into products including toilet paper, newsprint, lumber, and biomass energy. The logging industry’s unsustainable practices are turning carbon-rich primary (i.e., previously unlogged) forests into lower-carbon secondary forests—with the atmosphere seeing the difference.

Unfortunately—as outlined in NRDC’s new report Missing the Forest: How Carbon Loopholes for Logging Hinder Canada's Climate Leadership—the Government of Canada has used a series of accounting and regulatory loopholes to draw a curtain over the logging industry’s carbon emissions, allowing the sector to escape scrutiny for its substantial climate impact. Accounting artifices, carve-outs, and omissions downplay annual logging emissions in Canada by more than 80 Mt CO2—or nearly 11 percent of Canada’s overall annual greenhouse gas footprint. The result is a warped portrait of the logging industry and its climate cost that skews the values and incentives at the foundation of Canada’s forest and climate policy, perpetuating dangerous logging practices.

Canada could become a true global leader on natural climate solutions, but these dangerous loopholes undermine the country’s climate commitments and its credibility as a voice on forest protection internationally. To truly lead, Canada must reform its carbon accounting and regulatory practices and set a global example for how the right forest policies can genuinely help meet international climate targets, advance a just and sustainable economy, and ensure the protection of the forests that are vital to preserving a safe, healthy future.

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