The B.C. Liberals are doubling down on their plan to fight climate change by planting trees.
Christy Clark announced a $150 million investment Friday in the Forest Enhancement Society — a government-funded stewardship organization — to carry out projects to mitigate wildfire risk and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replanting ravaged forests.
"We must never forget that the most basic solution is Mother Nature's solution — and that's sequestering more carbon in our forests. Planting more trees is good for fighting climate change," she said at a news conference at Canfor Nursery in Prince George.
Clark said up to 3,000 jobs in rural B.C. will be created in the process.
"We can balance looking after our magnificent environment at the same time that we are looking after opportunities and creating jobs for British Columbians who need them."
A controversial strategy
The investment is meant to follow through on a plan outlined in the government's Climate Leadership Plan to plant over 300,000 hectares of pine beetle ravaged forests over the next five years. The premier said by 2050, B.C. forests would sequester 11.7 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
But critics say the strategy will do little to reduce the effect of climate change, especially if the forests are eventually logged.
"Planting trees is a foil that politicians have talked about and used for 30 years now as a way of avoiding reducing emissions from our burning of fossil fuels," said Mark Jaccard, director of the Energy and Materials Research Group at SFU.
According to Jaccard, reforesting land that will eventually be harvested doesn't yield any significant results. He says that carbon sequestered by trees would eventually go back into the atmosphere once the trees are logged, especially when a lot of the excess fibres are burned — a practice that contributed over 7,000 megatons of greenhouse gases in 2014 alone.
"Planting trees does not reduce emissions, but politicians have used that as a sleight of hand or a ruse, so that they don't need to put in a regulation that, for example, shifts our vehicles towards electricity and biofuels."
Clark eyeing new markets
The Ministry of Forests has confirmed in the past that some of the replanted trees would eventually be logged.
During the announcement, Clark also addressed the province's attempt to reach new lumber markets, while softwood lumber negotiations remain at a standstill.
"We just sent the biggest shipment of bulk lumber to India ever, in Canadian history," she said. "We budgeted $5 million to start opening up new markets in India because we think that's the next China."
The premier hopes Asian markets can soften the economic blow if negotiations fail.
"What I'd like to see in the long-term is ... B.C.'s markets be so diverse that the Softwood Lumber Agreement is a great thing to have, but it's not the most important thing to have in the world."