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WPAC: Wood pellet industry poised to help governments meet climate change goals


December 14, 2021
By Gordon Murray

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Many European electric power plants are fueled with Canadian wood pellets, contributing to the EU’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Photo credit: WPAC.

Editor’s note: This column was originally published in Canadian Biomass‘ Fall 2021 issue.

We are officially into fall and the cooler weather is a welcome relief to all of our friends in fire-impacted areas. September also saw another information-packed Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) annual conference and AGM. You can enjoy a summary of the conference and links to the excellent panels and presentations at canadianbiomassmagazine.ca. We can’t thank our attendees and sponsors enough as we held the event virtually for another year as the COVID-19 impacts continue to prevent us from gathering in-person. We are looking forward to seeing you in Vancouver next year – mark your calendars for Sept. 18-21, 2022!

The snap federal election that was called in August concluded on September 20 with another minority government for the Liberals and the Conservatives in official opposition once again. Cabinet is expected to be appointed by early-mid-October and Parliament to return by early November. WPAC expects many familiar faces to be in cabinet and will continue to work with old and new ministers and MPs on its members’ behalf.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s priority will be to return to governing and address the impact of the pandemic’s fourth wave on the country and ensure a strong economic recovery. Climate and environment will also continue to be key areas of focus. The Liberals’ climate plan, announced during the campaign, stresses that a healthy environment will also be positive for the economy and jobs. We couldn’t agree more.

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WPAC applauds the government for their ongoing commitment to a low-carbon economy and urges them to leverage existing policies, technologies, and products, including Canadian sustainably sourced and produced wood pellets, while also looking to invest for the future. We are pleased to see a commitment to end thermal coal exports by 2030. We have a made-in-Canada solution with wood pellets that can be used in international markets and domestically to help our export figures and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home and abroad.

However, based on the latest science and Canadians’ real-life experiences, time is of the essence. This past summer, unprecedented climate events, including massive wildfires, record-breaking heat waves, and devastating droughts and floods, brought climate change front and centre in all of our lives.

The picture is no different globally, and in Europe, politicians are leading the charge. The European Commission (EC) released On the path to fit for 55, a package of proposals to make the EU’s policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030. Sustainable bioenergy continues to be seen as a key part of the EU energy mix, playing a role in making Europe climate neutral by 2050. The proposed revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) include changes to biomass sustainability requirements, and the Canadian pellet industry is well-positioned to meet these criteria. We will work closely with our European industry partners and customers to ensure that the provisions of RED III are practical and viable.

Closer to home, we are encouraged by the British Columbia government’s recently released Intentions Paper with its focus on three principles, supported by WPAC, that will govern future actions and policies: 

  1. Increased sector participation
  2. Enhanced stewardship and sustainability
  3. Strengthened social contract. 

Katrine Conroy, British Columbia’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, opened our conference this year and challenged all of us to look beyond just energy to find more opportunities for pellets that will contribute to the emerging bioeconomy and reap some of the carbon benefits within the province as well.

Clearly there is political momentum from all angles as we get set to watch a convergence of thought leaders, political leaders, global scientists and NGOs this fall at COP26. The recently released IPCC Sixth Assessment Report linked global climate change with specific extreme weather events and warned that we should expect more of this in the years to come.

“We need immediate, rapid and sustained reductions,” says John Fyfe, senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada and a lead author. 

We couldn’t agree more. Replacing fossil fuels with sustainably harvested and produced wood pellets is a solution for today.

At WPAC, we are moving forward on some ambitious initiatives and goals. At our recent AGM, we received full support of our 2021-22 priorities including building on our market outreach and advocacy efforts, getting the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) Regional Risk Assessments completed for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and moving forward on assessments for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Domestically, we will continue to improve our sector’s pellet safety performance across Canada and grow the domestic market with a focus on the Maritimes. We will also establish a research advisory group in co-operation with the University of British Columbia to tap into the full potential of pellets in the bioeconomy.

Achieving these goals and tackling climate change will require all of us listening, sharing ideas, investing in research, committing to safety 24/7 and pulling in the same direction. We have a solid track record on this front, but there’s more work to do. •