Canadian Forest Service Publications

A synthesis of climate change mitigation options based on regional case studies of the North American forest sector using a harmonized modeling approach. 2020. Smyth, C.E., Dugan, A.J., Olguin, M., Birdsey, R., Wayson, C., Alanís, A., Kurz, W.A. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre, Victoria, British Columbia. Information report BC-X-455. 22 p.

Year: 2020

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40190

Language: English

Series: Information Report (PFC - Victoria)

Availability: PDF (download)

Mark record


Managing forests and forest products to help mitigate climate change was quantified in three coordinated studies involving six regions within North America. Each country-specific study examined several mitigation scenarios in a comparative analysis, using harmonized tools with site-specific data and a systems approach that included forest ecosystem, harvested wood products, and substitution benefits relative to a forward-looking baseline. Here we synthesized the North American case studies by comparing normalized annual mitigation potential (net change in emissions and removals relative to the baseline), and examined differences in ecosystems and drivers that affected the ranking of mitigation activities. Considering all six study sites, the highest mitigation potential over the 32-year study period occurred in southern temperate and tropical regions where avoided deforestation, increased afforestation, and accelerated forest recovery after disturbance resulted in the greatest reduction in net emissions. The only effective scenario common to all regions was increased production of longer-lived wood products, where longer product lifetimes delayed emissions to the atmosphere, and increased substitution benefits from using wood in place of more emissions-intensive materials. We conclude that regionally differentiated mitigation scenarios that take into account diverse ecosystems dynamics and drivers offer the highest mitigation potential and a practical way to allocate resources for forestry activities.

Plain Language Summary

This article synthesizes the results of a Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) project to assess forest sector mitigation options related to improved management of lands and wood products in two strategic landscapes for each country in North America: Mexico (Olguin et al. 2018), the US (Dugan et al. 2018) and Canada (Smyth et al. 2018). The objectives were to compare and contrast regional circumstances, and examine the efficiency of regionally differentiated mitigation activities for the six strategic landscapes, after standardizing the results to enable comparisons. The goal was to understand the impacts and timing of alternative management options for forests and harvested wood products and synthesize these findings to more broadly support policy and management decisions regarding climate change mitigation. Previously published model estimates of the climate change mitigation potential for Canada, the US and Mexico were standardized and compared. Each of the three studies used a harmonized modeling approach (with country-specific information), and therefore the country-specific results can be directly compared. The three studies used a sound analytical framework for assessing mitigation examined the forest ecosystem, C use and storage in HWPs and landfills, and substitution benefits from using wood in place of fossil-based products or energy. Combinations of activities that focus on forest ecosystems, wood use and low-emissions material and energy use offer the highest mitigation potential and at the same time can minimize future risks. In addition, combinations of activities that balance immediate GHG reductions with longer-term reductions related to future forest growth have high mitigation potential. The demand for climate change mitigation analyses in the forest sector has never been higher. Signatory countries to the Paris Agreement aim to keep the global temperature increase to well below two degrees Celsius, and enhance and conserve forest-based C sinks. Over 100 member counties have included the land sector in their nationally determined contributions, and each member country must determine and report on the national contributions to mitigate climate change and update mid-century projections every five years. This synthesis shows the tools that already deployed in Canada, are maturing to perform these analyses for all of North America, given access to data and tri-national research coordination.