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The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement … what was that again?

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Issue date: 
May 16th, 2012
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Recently, the most common question ForestTalk is asked is, “Whatever happened to that Boreal Forest Agreement?”, and “Have you heard anything about that Boreal Forest Agreement lately?”

To refresh our memories, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement was signed 2 years ago.  21 forest companies, all members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, and 9 environmental organizations signed the agreement.  Through the agreement, the forest companies committed to the highest environmental standards of forest management and conservation, while environmental organizations commit to global recognition and support for the forest companies efforts.

Last year, in April 2011, the signatories of the agreement unveiled a Boreal Business Forum that would be a roundtable for the participants of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, as well as leading corporations and investors that have a strong interest in conserving the boreal forest.

The leading corporations included Axel Springer, Batirente, The Globe and Mail, Hearst Corporation, Indigo Books & Music, Kimberly-Clark, Limited Brands, Lowes, Office Depot, RONA, SHARE, Staples, Time Inc. and VDZ.

Today, the Vice President of Finance for one of these leading corporations dropped ForestTalk an email to ask if the Boreal Business Forum was still active and if any upcoming meetings were scheduled.

Was the historic agreement nothing but a media show?  A feel good, publicity stunt?  Smoke and mirrors?

This week, 3 of the environmental groups who signed the agreement – Canopy, ForestEthics, and Greenpeace – released a joint status report to reveal the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement has yet to deliver many results.  They indicate that the agreement was broken down into 75 milestones, each with a specific timeline attached.  58 of those milestones are unfilled, and only 10 were delivered on time.

Mark Hubert, vice president of environmental leadership at the Forest Products Association of Canada, said ”It’s a complex agreement but we’re making progress. Do we wish we were moving faster? Absolutely, but . . . there’s an extraordinary amount of work going on by both parties to make sure that we get to the finish line, so to speak.”

Janet Sumner, executive director of conservation group Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and a member of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement steering committee, said she doesn’t share the assessment of Canopy, ForestEthics, and Greenpeace.  “We’re at the penultimate moment in planning in several regions of the country.” Sumner said they are just weeks away from producing agreements that will protect forests and caribou lands in Quebec’s Lac St-Jean region and northwestern Ontario. Those agreements would then be passed to first nations groups and governments for their input.

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Extpub | by Dr. Radut