CPAWS accuses Western Climate Initiative of ducking a burning issue

    OTTAWA, Sept. 24 /CNW Telbec/ - Four Canadian provinces and seven
American states have just released their recommendations for the design of a
regional cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon and reduce greenhouse
gas emissions in their jurisdictions. According to the Canadian Parks and
Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the recommendations duck a key issue -- whether
partners will be allowed to falsely claim carbon neutrality for logging and
burning natural forests to produce electricity.
    Wood is a low quality fuel that results in significant carbon dioxide
emissions. The draft WCI recommendations released in the summer suggested that
these emissions would be ignored. Environmental groups pushed back on the
recommendation, demanding that the real emissions from all energy sources be
counted. Today's recommendations don't resolve this question.
    Proponents of producing bioenergy from wood say that the fuel does not
cause pollution because trees will grow back and remove all the carbon back
out of atmosphere as they grow.
    "The problem is that it can take more than a hundred years for a natural
forest to take the carbon back from the atmosphere, if it ever does. In the
meantime, switching to woody bionenergy would actually increase emissions in
the short-term when emission reductions are most urgently needed," says Chris
Henschel, an expert on forests and climate change working for CPAWS.
    In the final recommendations released today, the group of premiers and
governors has said they will allow each province and state to decide whether
or not to ignore these real emissions and treat them as carbon neutral.
    "There is a lack of leadership from the WCI on this issue," said
Henschel. "We need a clear signal that premiers and governors will protect our
natural forests. What we have instead is a threat that each province and state
could create a perverse incentive to log and burn natural forests with no
climate benefit."
    Natural forests in Canada are massive carbon stores and protecting these
forests is an effective strategy to keep the carbon out of the atmosphere and
help biodiversity survive in the face of climate change. Creating a market to
burn wood from natural forests for electricity could result in much greater
pressures to log these forests, hence accelerating the clear cutting front in
Northern pristine boreal forests.
    "At least the forest industry is only interested in trees of a certain
size," said Henschel, "whereas everything from saplings to ancient forest
giants could be burned to produce electricity."
    The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) is the largest North American effort
to cap global warming pollution from major industrial sources. The WCI
initiative is important because it could send a signal to investors that
states and provinces are serious about supporting renewable energy and energy
efficiency. The design of the WCI system will be finalized in November with
jurisdictions passing supporting legislation next year.
    "We need the WCI," said Henschel. "But we also need WCI to send a clear
message that partners cannot ignore emissions resulting from logging and
burning natural forests."

For further information:

For further information: National: Chris Henschel, (514) 836-8497;
British Columbia: Chloe O'Loughlin, (604) 685-7445 ext. 23; Manitoba: Ron
Thiessen, (204) 453-6346, cell - (204) 794-4971; Ontario: Trevor Hesselink,
(416) 971-9453, ext. 33; Quebec: Nicolas Mainville, (514) 278-7627, ext. 225

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