This week in question period I asked Hon. Doug Donaldson about the impact of the growing risks of climate change on our forests in British Columbia.
Public attention is focussing in recent months on the forest industry that is controlled by multi-national corporations shuttering operations, cutting jobs and putting into question of the future of rural and remote communities in our province. People in those communities are concerned about whose interests those companies are looking out for. There is a growing concern that it is not the local interests.
The aspect that I dug into this week is not often discussed. What role do our forests play in a changing climate? How does a changing climate impact our forests? What is our government innovate the forestry sector? These are incredibly important questions we will continue ask.
FOREST MANAGEMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION
A. Olsen: Yesterday my colleague drew the connection between the climate risks facing our community and the management of our forests, for the climate risks also could have huge impacts on the forests across the province. According to the climate risk assessment quietly released by government, climate change could negatively affect forest growth rates, increase forest mortality and change forest composition. Climate-induced drought could increase forest die-off and make trees more vulnerable to wildfire and pest outbreaks.
These changes are happening now. My daughter Ella is growing up in a world where summer means fire. The skies above our house have been blanketed by smoke for half of the summers of her life. Luckily, we got a break this year, but who knows what next year will bring? The risks facing our forest sector are going to be exacerbated as we move forward.
My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. How are we ensuring that forest-dependent community will be able to have a resource they can rely on in future decades as the impacts of climate change take hold?
Hon. D. Donaldson: I thank the member for his well-thought-out and presented question.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Donaldson: When it comes to fighting climate change, our government takes our responsibility very seriously. Unlike some members on the other side, our government and our colleagues in the Green caucus know the science is clear, and we need real action now.
As far as the Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment, which was a report that is mandated in our CleanBC plan that we worked on with the Green caucus, there are a number of factors pointed out around forestry and around the need for innovation in forestry when it comes to the forests and the future. The member is correct to point out the incredible fires that we’ve had in 2017 and 2018 as a result of forests drying out and a change in climate. The innovation in practice — one example that we’ve had, and we’ve had many, is prescribed burning. We’re allotting $10 million a year for the next three years to use traditional Indigenous knowledge and create prescribed burns to lower the fuel load and therefore lower the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere from unplanned fires.
We have innovation in management. The member asked around innovation in management. We have a seed tree program where we’re growing trees that are going to be better adapted to the climate change characteristics in the future. And we have innovation in technology. We’ve been working on an app in the field, a biomass utilization app that will assess biomass volumes and potential greenhouse gas emission benefits in real time. That’s been supported…
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Minister.
Hon. D. Donaldson: …by Canada under the transformative technologies agreement.
They don’t seem to want to know about innovation in forestry, and I can understand that, because they ignored forestry for 16 years.
We’ll keep working hard to support innovation in our forest sector.
Mr. Speaker: Member, Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
A. Olsen: I thank the minister for the answer to the question and the answer to the supplemental and maybe the supplemental for next week as well.
We need to transform our approach to forestry in this province, especially as we confront the massive challenge of climate change. We must be better stewards, and we must start managing for value instead of volume. This is the only way to create resilient local communities and dependable jobs. We could produce everything from wood fibre insulation, mass timber or a range of products to replace single-use plastics. Instead of leading this change, B.C. is exporting raw logs, we continue to lose forestry jobs, and we are a net importer of engineered wood products.
Sweden is an example of how things could be different. Despite having a similarly sized harvesting land base, Sweden’s forestry industry employs almost twice as many people as B.C.’s. The difference: they manage their forests for value and on the basis of science.
My question is to the minister. Forestry-dependent communities are hurting across this province. Now is the time for transformative change of our forest management in B.C., not just for band-aids or for changes around the outside. What specific actions has he taken to spur the innovation in this industry so that we add value, maximize local jobs and responsibly manage our forests?
Hon. D. Donaldson: I apologize for the length of my answers. It’s just that I’m so passionate about the future of forestry in this province. I couldn’t agree with the member more about maximizing value of the logs that come out of our forests versus maximizing volume. Part of that is true. The exponential growth of raw log exports under the previous government is something that we’ve addressed directly under the coast forest sector revitalization initiative.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Donaldson: The member asked how we’re addressing getting more value out of the forest. I can give him a very, very good example. Earlier this year, the Premier announced that we, in B.C., have become the first province in Canada, as an early adopter of 12-storey building regulations around building 12-storey buildings out of wood. First in Canada. That will end up…. That’s directly in regards to building taller buildings out of engineered wood products. That adds value to the value chain. That creates more jobs in the forest, more jobs in the factories and makes more stable rural communities.