An interesting article by Paul Sutherland popped up on Mongabay yesterday, discussing a new report in Conversation Letters that global temperatures may start to increase even faster if more is not done to protect our boreal forests. 

According to Jon Moen, an author of the report, “The absence of boreal forests from global policy agendas on sustainable development and climate change mitigation represents a massive missed opportunity for environmental protection.” Given that “about half of the boreal forest has been managed or exploited, and the rest is more or less virgin,” Moen and co-authors suggest that “a first approach could be to protect the virgin forests that are left, and increase the focus on sustainable forestry with a focus on multiple ecosystem services in the rest.”

This reflects in large part the science and recommendations guiding Greenpeace’s campaign for a healthy Boreal that can support communities and retain its ecological value for future generations: focusing on key Boreal areas which are still relatively intact and have the greatest potential for conservation, while promoting sustainable development in parallel to protection.

It also adds to the scientific consensus that “maintaining the full complement of species, communities and ecosystem services in the Canadian boreal forest requires that at least half of the area be protected from industrial disturbance.” Currently, only 8% of Canada's forests are protected by legislation overall.

Canada is covered by over half of the world’s intact boreal forest, storing a massive 208 billion tonnes of carbon. Canada’s boreal also contains the largest area of surface freshwater on earth, along with a wealth of biodiversity.

Managing these “multiple ecosystem services” responsibly is an urgent imperative for all Canadians. To put it in economic terms, our boreal forests and freshwater ecosystems provide more than $700 billion in ecological services annually, including carbon storage and sequestration, air and water filtration and ecotourism.

Unfortunately, transnational corporations like Resolute Forest Products “will not do the minimum that the science says is required to protect our forests”. Instead of collaborating to balance sustainable development with scientific consensus, the company continues to resist such conservation measures in the “Endangered Forests” from which it sources.

Most recently, Resolute went so far as to launch a lawsuit against its own independent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) auditor, The Rainforest Alliance. According to court documents, the purpose of this legal action is to suppress Rainforest Alliance's audit citing Resolute with "non-compliance with FSC standards" in two Boreal areas in Ontario. This would result in a total of 4 certificates, totaling 8.7 million hectares of forest, suspended since January. Previous suspensions arose from the company's failure to conserve high conservation value forest, ensure the survival of endangered species and respect Indigenous rights.

While Resolute struggles to internalize the science that must guide sustainable development in Canada’s Boreal, I remain optimistic that they can, and will one day, open up to collaboration. The implications of ignoring this science are too grave for the planet to ignore