Thank you very much, Chair.
I forgot to mention that I am the assistant deputy minister for the Canadian Forest Service.
Good afternoon, gentlemen, and lady, around the table. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the importance of forests and the forest sector and their role in Canada's clean growth and climate change strategy. We are, I believe, at a pivotal moment when climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Investing in science, clean technology and innovation is the new imperative for a low-carbon economy.
We believe there can be no global solution to climate change without the forest sector. That statement is backed by science. Keeping global temperature increases to two degrees or less means we need to very substantially reduce fossil fuel emissions and increase land-based carbon sinks.
The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear that forests, in particular, have a large role to play. The IPCC says:
In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon [sinks], while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.
Federal programs are important, but, as you know, provinces and territories control the majority of the land base and resources. I am encouraged that provinces and territories are taking greater interest than ever before to understand the potential to reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon through actions involving forests and wood use.
If we consider forest carbon estimation, the managed forest in Canada covers 226 million hectares. The annual GHG inventory report shows that our managed forest already absorbs vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. At the same time, harvesting results in storage of carbon for decades in products such as lumber used in housing, even though, over time, there are emissions when the products are eventually disposed of.
When we consider the role our managed forests in Canada play, as a source or a sink, we need to consider three things: first, how forest management affects emissions and removals; second, the carbon stored in wood products; and third, how forest products and bioenergy can replace other products and fossil fuels that produce more emissions.
Canada's GHG inventory shows that our managed forests and associated products were a net sink of 27 megatonnes in 2016. It's important to note that this does not include the impact of fire or vast pest infestations such as the mountain pine beetle. Those two alone resulted in emissions of about 90 megatonnes in 2016.
How do we produce these numbers? At Natural Resources Canada, we use the national forest carbon monitoring accounting and reporting system. At its core is the forest carbon budget model, a model initiated in 1989 by Canada—by us—continuously improved since then, and internationally recognized and adopted by many countries.
I'll touch briefly on forests and climate change mitigation. The key question here is, what can we do to increase the carbon storage and reduce GHG emissions associated with forests and wood products? NRCan has looked at this question in collaboration with our partners in the provinces and territories, and some of the analysis was done in preparation for the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change.
The analysis shows that mitigation actions with significant potential for emissions reductions in the long term, by 2030 and beyond, include four things. The first is forest management actions, such as enhancing restoration of forests after fire and insect damage like we see in British Columbia and Alberta, and ensuring maximum utilization of fibre, including residue.
The second is increasing afforestation to create new forests, using marginal agricultural land—planting trees.
The third is increasing the use of long-lived wood products to replace more emission-intensive materials, for example, replacing concrete and steel with mass timber buildings wherever possible.
Finally, fourth is increasing use of wood for bioenergy in place of fossil fuels, for example, by reducing burning slash piles of harvest residues. We can use these in the form of pellets for bioenergy and bioheat.
By 2050, carbon sequestration in forests and wood products could represent one of the largest mitigation opportunities for Canada. However, note that the actions need to take place today and in the near term if we are to achieve this benefit by 2050, because in Canada it takes a long time to grow trees.
These analyses informed the pan-Canadian framework. The PCF commits us to enhancing carbon storage in forests, generating bioenergy and bioproducts, encouraging greater use of wood in construction projects, and advancing innovation for GHG-efficient forest management practices. When Canadians think of how forests can help mitigate climate change, it is often limited to notions of tree planting, but that isn't the case from our perspective. Similarly, conservation appears like a good opportunity to leave the forests in place and not harvest them, but that is without taking into account the increasing frequency of fire and insect outbreaks, and without considering what would replace wood products if we reduce harvest, so that you're using more emission-intensive products. Conservation is definitely important, but it's often not the most effective long-term GHG emission strategy.
One pan-Canadian framework commitment involves looking at innovative practices in the forest sector to increase stored carbon in forests. ECCC's low-carbon economy fund is providing support in the order of $202 million in this area. B.C., Alberta, Quebec, P.E.I. and the Northwest Territories are accessing this to accelerate restoration of forests after fires and pest insects, and they're planting new forests.
A second PCF commitment involves increasing the use of wood in construction to store carbon over the long term. This increases the use of a renewable resource, while replacing conventional emissions-intensive building products, and is a goal of our NRCan $40-million green construction through wood program. An example of this is Brock Commons, at the University of British Columbia. Up until about a month ago Canada was a world leader in having the tallest wood building—18 storeys built in nine and half weeks.
A third pan-Canadian framework commitment involves identifying opportunities to produce renewable bioproducts and fuels, something that we're quite proud of. To this end, $55 million of NRCan's $220-million clean energy for remote and rural communities program—we call it CERRC—is supporting projects to replace fossil fuels with local forest biomass for heating, and we're focusing on indigenous communities across Canada to do this.
These are just some of the ways the forest sector will help us tackle the key issue of climate change, as well as lead environmental performance, drive clean growth and innovation, and at the same time make real reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Here are some key points as I close. We cannot forget that forest carbon emission and storage is not only affected by humans but by the changing climate itself, which increases the frequency and magnitude of fires in Canada, has an effect on growth rates and survival, and enhances insect outbreaks. The last two fire seasons in the west, as well as the outbreak of mountain pine beetle and the spruce budworm infestations on the east coast, are all causing large emissions.
We need to think about what actions can reduce GHG emissions, while contributing to climate change mitigation. Our federal programming is doing a lot, and I believe further opportunities exist.
Yes, thank you very much.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today with my colleagues from the department to discuss greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector, as well as the role of the sector in contributing to emissions reductions and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
As I'm sure you know, the pan-Canadian framework is a comprehensive plan to grow the Canadian economy while reducing emissions and building resilience to a changing climate. The agriculture sector has an important role to play, as it accounts for approximately 8.5% of total emissions in Canada. These are figures from the most recent greenhouse gas inventory report.
Total agricultural emissions from livestock, crops and on-farm fuel use have been relatively stable since the mid-1990s, despite significant growth in agricultural production over that time. This indicates an important decoupling of emissions and production, as farmers have become more efficient and adopted sustainable practices and technologies.
It is important to note that unlike many other sectors, most agricultural emissions do not come from energy use, but rather from biological processes. In this regard, the three main greenhouse gases produced by agriculture are methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, which come from ruminant digestion, manure and fertilizers, as well as soils and on-farm fuel use.
Given the nature of these emissions, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are often focused on science and innovation, supporting on-farm actions to enhance efficiency and adopt more sustainable practices and technologies.
The Canadian agricultural partnership is the primary mechanism by which the agriculture sector will contribute to Canada's transition to a low-carbon economy, as well as the three specific actions identified in the pan-Canadian framework, which I'll come to shortly.
I'll just give a bit of background concerning the Canadian agricultural partnership. Since 2003, federal, provincial and territorial governments have used intergovernmental policy frameworks to collaborate and coordinate efforts on agricultural issues, which is obviously important, given agriculture is a shared jurisdiction in Canada.
Building on past successes, Canadian ministers of agriculture launched the most recent framework, called the Canadian agricultural partnership, on April 1 of this year. The partnership is a five-year, $3-billion investment that will strengthen the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based product sector, ensuring continued innovation, growth and prosperity. It aligns federal, provincial and territorial policy and program priorities while providing provincial and territorial governments with the flexibility to address regional priorities and issues.
Federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture have identified environmental sustainability and climate change as one of six priorities under the partnership.
Through the partnership, the Government of Canada, together with the provinces and territories, will provide funding to help this sector grow sustainably in three broad areas: reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector; protecting the environment, including soil and water; and helping the sector adapt to a changing climate.
More specifically, with respect to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the pan-Canadian framework identified three specific areas for action: first, increasing the stored carbon in agricultural soils; second, generating bioenergy and bioproducts; and third, advancing innovative practice to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This will be accomplished through a variety of programs, some delivered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and others cost-shared with provincial and territorial governments. I would note that a significant portion of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's funding under the partnership is focused on science, research and the development of innovative practices and technologies.
With respect to on-farm environment cost-shared programs, they deliver the practices and technologies developed through upstream science and innovation activities. Provinces and territories design and manage the delivery of these programs, which allows the programs to be tailored to each jurisdiction's environmental priorities. In particular, these programs build producer awareness and knowledge of environmental risks on farms. Based on these risk assessments, they provide financial incentives to producers to adopt innovative beneficial management practices to reduce these risks, including climate-related risks.
Canadian producers have adopted technologies and practices that both build resilience to climate change and reduce emissions by improving production efficiency and increasing agricultural soil carbon. For example, Canadian farmers are increasing their adoption of new precision agriculture technologies, such as variable-rate irrigation and smart fertilizers, which save valuable water resources, use fertilizer resources more efficiently and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
I would note that in addition to the Canadian agricultural partnership, there are some programs that will contribute to further action on climate change in the sector. There are two specific examples to note. In budget 2017 there was an announcement of funding of $70 million over six years to further support agricultural discovery, science and innovation, with a focus on addressing emerging priorities, such as climate change and soil and water conservation. Budget 2017 also announced $200 million over four years for innovative clean technologies for Canada's natural resource sectors, including $25 million in funding in agriculture for the development and adoption of clean technology in the sector, and also to produce advanced materials and bioproducts based on agricultural outputs.
In conclusion, through the adoption of innovative practices and technologies, the agriculture sector has made important advances in increasing efficiencies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving soil and water, and building resilience to a changing climate. Through Canadian agricultural partnership and other complementary funding, the federal government, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, will support industry efforts to enhance the sustainability of the Canadian agricultural sector.
Thank you for your time. My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer any questions.
I will try to answer, although I am not in the waste management aspect.
To give you some statistics, in Canada, methane generated by landfills has increased by almost 6% since 2005, from 970 kilotonnes to 1,027 kilotonnes, primarily due to the growth of population and the generation of degradable organic waste in municipal landfills.
That being said, the increase in methane generation has also been offset by an increase in the capture of methane in municipal landfills, from 32% to a total of 44% in 2016. A lot has been done due to the fact that provincial governments put in place regulatory requirements and measures that the major landfills have carbon capture mechanisms.
Government funding to support low-carbon initiatives also contributed to the reduction of landfill methane emissions, such as funding provided through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, direct funding provided by the Government of New Brunswick, and Quebec's biogas program. Some landfills in Quebec and B.C. have generated carbon offsets in the California market as well.
Based on recent research conducted by our department, landfill gas capture systems are in place or under development at approximately 94 out of 130 of the largest landfills in Canada, and an additional 23 out of 149 medium-sized landfills that serve a population of 12,000 to 50,000.
This is the progress that has been made, so definitely there are good practices. A case in point is that the landfills that do not have capture systems have developed some, and for those that have capture systems, they've found ways to improve efficiency. There are definitely provincial and federal efforts to together help reduce the generation of methane in landfills.
Thank you. I am going to pass my six minutes back to Mr. Lake in a minute.
Thank you for being here today.
My first question will be for Agriculture.
I have a bill, which is in the Senate, Bill C-281, to celebrate national local food day on the Friday before Thanksgiving every year.
The purpose of it is to shine a spotlight on the importance of local food across the country. As you know, it's important for food security and for the local economies. It's also important for the environment, particularly in the reduction of carbon emissions, to grow your food locally rather than shipping it in from across the country or around the world.
Are there any financial incentives in the packages you mentioned, Mr. Parry, or perhaps Mr. Fox, since you're in innovation, that the people in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia and other local growers across the country can access out of this funding you mentioned earlier?
Yes. Thank you for that question.
I think all of the analysis that we have done in the Canadian Forest Service of NRCan—and has also been done elsewhere in the world—does indicate that using wood can make a contribution to climate change mitigation, in particular, using long-lived wood products in construction where they can replace other more emissions-intensive materials like concrete or steel.
As the assistant deputy minister mentioned, NRCan does have a program, the GCWood, or green construction through wood program that is aimed at essentially supporting those types of efforts. That program does a number of things. It's seeking to support demonstration projects for more use of wood in what might be called non-traditional construction, tall wooden buildings, for example, or commercial buildings or bridges.
The program is also going to support efforts to have building codes changed in 2020 or 2025 to allow taller buildings to make more use of wood.
Finally, it's going to support educational and training programs for architects, engineers, etc., and the development of tools that they can use so that wood construction or wood-based construction becomes something that they're more aware of and interested in.
The short answer is, yes, there is a lot of potential that we see from using wood for construction.
I have a couple of thoughts here. As I mentioned in asking for unanimous consent with the previous one, it struck me that in our process as a committee, we got in a bit of a weird situation in the last meeting because it was presented at the end of the meeting that the minister had been invited for specific times and dates, obviously very limiting in the busyness of a minister's schedule, and had gotten back that she was not available for any of those dates.
In having a conversation around the committee table, it turned out that there was no conversation to be had because there was no mechanism within the rules of committee to allow us to do that. That's concerning to us because clearly, from our side—and I think we'd have agreement from the NDP in this case—it would be important for the minister to appear, and as a responsible environment committee, we should make ourselves available at whatever hour we can to fit the minister's schedule if she's able to appear, and that clearly is a bit of a challenge because we couldn't even have that discussion under the rules of the committee. The way the committee was set up we couldn't even move a motion in that direction and agree as a committee that we would want to have that happen.
We've done a little research, of course, and taken a look at supplementary estimates in this committee previously, and in almost every year since 2008, the minister has appeared for the supplementary estimates. There are very few exceptions in that time frame, so it stands to reason that particularly in this budget, with the numbers we're talking about being asked for in supplementary estimates going well above the planned expenditures of the department, that the minister would appear before this committee.
Mr. Chair, first of all, I'm wondering how many people are on the list to speak.
I think the motion proposed by my colleague is reasonable. I believe that, as parliamentarians and in situations such as the current one, we must be able to question the . I can understand that a minister has a very busy schedule. But if we are to do our job as parliamentarians and continue to protect our planet, we must question the person who determines the government's perspective. There were questions at the last meeting on the use of the additional funds.
I would like to stress something that is extremely dear to me. As a parliamentarian, I have a dual mandate to protect the future of my children, both economically and environmentally. These are the two fundamental criteria that will let me be proud, walk with my head held high and say “mission accomplished” when I stop being a member of Parliament. In the meantime, I believe that the least the minister could do is appear before the committee.
At some point, to show good faith, you have to know how to adapt. As I said, I understand that the minister has a very busy schedule. As my colleague said earlier, we are open to the idea of changing our sitting hours to meet our needs. However, for us parliamentarians, it is a need to be able to question the minister.
There is nothing abusive about that. I know there are situations where people exaggerate and partisanship comes into play. Yet this is something very important. Today, people are wondering about the importance of the measures that should be put in place quickly in terms of the environment. However, this is not the same as writing a blank cheque. In light of the answers I heard at the last meeting, the situation is not very reassuring. The government has even decided to vote supply for a bill that has not yet been passed, namely Bill , which amounts to putting the cart before the horse. Let's stop. Let's be responsible. I think we need to ask questions of Canada's leader on the environment.
I'll repeat what my colleague mentioned: we are available, and we are ready to adjust our schedules. I don't know if it's the whiff of an election in the air that is making us a little more partisan. However, we have been successful so far—Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives—in working together for the benefit of our environment and our planet.
So, I reiterate my colleague's request that we meet with the Minister of Environment by December 3. Our flexibility shows that we aren't being stubborn. We don't need her to make any changes to her schedule. We are ready to adapt in order to get answers to our questions.
I agree, but in the absence of any mechanism to actually make these points.... We saw that in the last meeting. We have to follow the rules and try to make those points in whatever way we can. I think there are important points to be made here.
I'll read one more sentence from this. I was right in the middle of a sentence, so I'll have to reread the sentence that I was in the middle of:
We will run modest short-term deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years to fund historic investments in infrastructure and our middle class.
After the next two fiscal years, the deficit will decline and our investment plan will return Canada to a balanced budget in 2019.
It's a clear promise clearly articulated within the minister's mandate letter. It was interesting that in the last meeting we had officials before the committee talking about the supplementary estimates who couldn't reference any type of conversation, leadership from the minister's office or conversations within the department around any efforts to stay within the budget balance, within the budget program—obviously a real challenge.
The mandate letter goes on to say this, which is where it comes to committee here. This is the writing to his :
As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the public service....
And it continues. He was directly very expressive about meaningful engagement with opposition members of Parliament and parliamentary committees. It was something that was in the 's mandate letter.
Here, we have a motion. We now have had multiple motions asking for the to come before the committee. We wanted that to happen within the context of the supplementary estimates, but as my NDP colleague suggested, if we can't get her within the supplementary estimates, surely we can within this study on forestry, agriculture and waste.
We will as a committee I'm sure—I'm sure the Liberal members will as well—make ourselves available at any given time to have the before us. It is critically important that the minister come before us. You'll notice that at least on this side of the table we've been able to work with two parties, the Conservative Party and the NDP, to find some common ground in terms of our approach on things. We both deem it very important that the minister come before the committee.
When we talked about a previous motion and wanted to have a study on what we deemed the carbon tax, the NDP moved an amendment to refer to the carbon tax as “carbon pricing”, which was something that was clearly designed by the NDP member to build a bridge to the Liberal Party. The Liberals basically voted unanimously to stick with the wording “carbon tax” instead of the wording “carbon pricing” just so they could vote against that motion and vote against that study.
Yes, I appreciate that.
First of all, we have to appreciate where these fires occur, because most of these fires and most of the areas burned are caused by lightning, and much of it occurs in remote areas where we do not have the kind of infrastructure that is required to suppress forest fires effectively.
Secondly, if you go to southern California and witness what happened in recent days there, you see that even where you have high population density, road infrastructure, airports and all the fire suppression technology in the world, we're still facing situations where forest fires simply cannot be suppressed because of the intensity of the energy that is being released in these forest fires.
I'm the carbon guy. I'm not the fire expert, but what my fire experts say is that what has happened in recent years is that the conditions in the climate situation have increased the intensity of forest fires to the point that the fire suppression efforts are increasingly overwhelmed. It is, I would argue, not possible to increase the resources to the point that all forest fires can be suppressed. I should emphasize that British Columbia, for example, in the last four years has spent about $1.6 billion in fire suppression efforts. That is just at the provincial level. The numbers across the country are, again, in the range of $700 million or $800 million per year and probably more in some.
The big question, therefore, is this. Do we need to change our strategy as we face climate change impacts to start managing our forests in such a way as to reduce the risk of future fires rather than trying to spend more money on suppressing fires when they occur?
What FPInnovations does significantly contributes, I think, to what we're trying to do in the greening of the economy and the shift to the low-carbon economy.
Before I go on to FPInnovations, I would like to say with regard to water conservation that Dr. Tam, the chief public health officer for Canada, in her first report last November, talks about the built environment and the importance of green infrastructure. Actually, if you plant trees, if you have urban forests, this helps reduce the temperatures. If you have more green—living plant material—within a city, it also has a significant impact on water conservation. I wanted to mention that in terms of an urban environment.
FPInnovations, as you probably know, was created in 2006-07 by the amalgamation of three forest research institutes. Without the research that goes on at FPInnovations, we wouldn't have the tall wood buildings, the cross-laminated timber, the mass timber structures and the substitution of wood for steel and concrete.
We want to do more of that. We actually have this technology overseas now. Canada helps support an eco-district in China, and I think we're pushing.... You may know that the federal government is a strong financial contributor through Natural Resources Canada to FPInnovations, and we are pushing them into broadening and diversifying the bioproducts range, such as bioplastics, for instance.
Basically, fundamentally, the first thing to do is to increase the forest area where possible. Canada, unlike many other countries, does not have a significant problem of deforestation—in other words, the conversion of forest to other land uses—but we certainly do have opportunities for afforestation, whereby we take lands that are of marginal agricultural value or have been degraded from forest fires or some other causes and bring them back to act actively as carbon sinks. There are certainly many opportunities to manage our forests better to reduce the losses due to mortality, to go in and thin periodically, remove trees and basically manage forests so they are stronger carbon sinks.
The goal is to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as possible. That being said, these forests cannot remove carbon dioxide indefinitely. They will grow older and bigger and become susceptible to insects, etc., so they are removing that carbon from the forest, allowing the next cycle to start again, and then making use of the carbon to the greatest extent possible.
To put it in perspective, we're removing about 180 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent of carbon in wood through the annual harvest. Roughly one quarter of the emissions from all other sectors is the CO2 that is in the wood that we remove from the forest, which was previously removed from the atmosphere. How we use that wood is critically important, and this is where we come back to the discussions we had previously about mass timber buildings and other ways of retaining that carbon in harvested wood products for the longest extent possible and while using these products to substitute for other products like steel, concrete, plastics, etc., that are very emissions-intensive themselves. If we could avoid producing steel or concrete to the extent that is possible and replaceable through wooden buildings, we could store the carbon from the forests in the building and avoid the emissions from steel and concrete.
The last point is that as we do all this, there will be residues and waste products at every stage in the process, from the slash piles that we discussed earlier to the bark and other material that is produced in various production facilities to construction waste and post-consumer waste. All of that material, if it can't be recycled or reused otherwise, can be converted into bioenergy, and in particular there are opportunities for second-generation liquid transportation fuels to help offset the very large emissions in the transportation sector using woody biomass as the raw materials.
This is in very broad strokes an outline of how this could be done, and of course I did not discuss potential implications for biodiversity, the impacts of climate change and some of the other complications.