Ontario is committed to sustainable forest management to ensure long-term Crown forest health. The province also recognizes climate change as a legitimate and urgent problem requiring government action. Healthy forests play an important role in mitigating climate change impacts because they can absorb carbon dioxide from the air and store it in wood. How Ontario’s Crown forests are managed can influence the amount of carbon stored in trees and wood products or released into the atmosphere. Specific forest management practices may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while others may increase greenhouse gas removals from the atmosphere.
Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) initiated the Forest Carbon Policy project to support Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy and goals for moving towards a low carbon economy. In Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, the Forest Carbon Policy project is identified as a key action.
The MNRF is exploring how Ontario’s managed Crown forests can best contribute to the government’s objective to fight climate change while continuing to contribute to the social, economic and environmental needs of current and future generations. This discussion paper provides information about forest carbon and sustainable forest management in a changing climate, presents goals and outcomes for the Forest Carbon Policy project and outlines two policy approaches for optimizing the amount of carbon that can be mitigated in Ontario’s managed Crown forests.
Through the discussion paper, MNRF is engaging in a dialogue about two potential forest carbon policy approaches to optimize the mitigation potential of managed Crown forests, while remaining consistent with the principles of sustainable forest management. Approaches could influence sustainable forest management operations occurring prior to transporting the wood to the mill gate, including access (e.g., roads and landings), harvesting (e.g., cutting and hauling), renewal (e.g., regeneration), tending, and protection (e.g., from insects, disease, and wildfire).
The two policy approaches under consideration include:
1) forest carbon management - a government-led approach that could use forest carbon policies to influence the amount of carbon stored in forests and in wood products.
2) forest carbon offset projects - a market-driven approach that would enable forest carbon offset projects on managed Crown forests.
Based on the results of consultation and further analyses, policy will be developed that optimizes climate change mitigation while balancing multiple forest objectives and values.