Forest, Range & Recreation Resource Analysis Table of Contents

9.4 National and International Factors Affecting Forest Policy

Since the publication in 1987 of the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission), the international community has focused considerable attention on the health of the world’s forests, biodiversity, climate change and other environmental issues of global significance. International forestry initiatives currently underway emphasize a wide range of forest values, ecosystem-based approaches and the preservation of biodiversity. They focus on the establishment of standards for sustainable forest management and criteria and indicators of sustainability in forestry and in the extraction and manufacture of forest products. These initiatives, in turn, create challenges for sub-national jurisdictions such as British Columbia.

Forest management has also come under increased examination in international discussions on trade and the environment and in the purchasing decisions of individuals, businesses and governments often thousands of kilometres away.

9.4.1 International Initiatives

The Convention on Biological Diversity, developed for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), commits the signatory nations to the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of biological resources, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits that result from the use of genetic resources. Canada played a strong role in the development of this convention and was the first G-7 country to ratify it.[209] British Columbia is already addressing many of the requirements of the convention though provincial initiatives: the protection of key ecosystems, the management of forests for a range of values and biodiversity research.

The Non-legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests (“Guiding Principles on Forests”) was developed by Canada and other nations when it became clear that it would not be possible to develop a binding international forestry convention in time for UNCED. British Columbia supported Canada’s efforts to achieve widespread international agreement on these guiding principles, which were presented and passed at UNCED. As there is considerable overlap between the guiding principles and Canada’s National Forest Strategy (see below), British Columbia expects to achieve substantial compliance with the guiding principles.

The Intergovernmental Working Group on Forests (Malaysia-Canada Initiative) — a multilateral group of 32 countries, 11 environmental organizations and five international agencies initiated and co-chaired by Canada and Malaysia — has met a number of times since 1992. The group discusses overall issues of sustainable forestry and develops recommendations to take to the United Nations Committee on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). British Columbia has participated in this initiative through Canada’s representatives, and has encouraged outcomes which reflect the range of options required to manage the diversity of natural forest ecosystems across the province.

The Working Group on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests (Montreal Process) includes representatives of nine countries, including Canada, who have met six times to draft a set of criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry. This set of criteria and indicators will be submitted to the UNCSD. British Columbia has participated in this initiative through Canada’s representatives, and has worked to ensure that the outcomes of this process reflects the full range of options required to manage provincial forests.

The Economic Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management (Helsinki Process) were developed for European temperate and boreal forests, which is more reflective of the European style of forest management. The 42 European countries participating in this process plan to take their results to UNCSD and are beginning to develop reporting mechanisms based on these criteria and indicators.

The World Trade Organization is likely to play a significant role in evaluating the connections between environmental policies (including resource use and pricing) and trade, and has established a Trade and Environment Committee. As resource use and the internalizing of environmental costs and resource management policies are key issues in cross-boundary trade at present, British Columbia has a clear stake in these initiatives.

9.4.2 National Initiatives

The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy is Canada’s response to the international Convention on Biological Diversity. The strategy is a framework for action to maintain the productivity, diversity and integrity of Canada’s natural ecosystems. Most Canadian provinces, including British Columbia, are developing their own plans to complement the national strategy.

Canada’s National Forest Strategy (NFS) was signed in 1992 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. It commits all signatories to establishing models of sustainable forests in Canada’s major forest regions and to a working definition of biodiversity. It specifically commits governments to completing ecological land classifications, and private and public forest management bodies to accommodating soil, climate and wildlife concerns, in the development of silvicultural and management regimes. A 1994 interim NFS progress evaluation found that British Columbia is already addressing most of these commitments.

The Canada Forest Accord of 1992 commits the federal, provincial and territorial governments, along with aboriginal people, non-government organizations and the forest industry, to work together toward sustainable forests.

Canadian Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forestry have been developed by a multi sectoral working group. The Canadian approach proposes four criteria concerned with environmental aspects of forest ecosystems, two with socioeconomic aspects and one with aboriginal issues. The first six criteria and their indicators are compatible with those produced for the Helsinki Process (see Section 9.4.1). British Columbia participated in this process and is committed to its implementation.

9.4.3 Non-Governmental Initiatives

In their efforts to hold governments accountable for environmental commitments made through international conventions, environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) have commented on aspects of British Columbia’s forest, land use and environmental policy — most notably the use of clearcutting, the harvesting of old-growth forests and the Clayoquot Sound land use decision. Some provincial ENGOs have formed international partnerships, resulting in increased interest in domestic forest, land use and environmental policies by British Columbia’s international trading partners.

9.4.4 Impacts on British Columbia Forest Policy

British Columbia recognizes that the international processes now underway will help to determine the policy framework within which all jurisdictions will operate. As a member of the global community and through its international trade interests, the province therefore has a strong stake in the outcome of the processes and initiatives described above.

British Columbia took an active role in the development of international accords on forestry, biodiversity and climate change and in national processes leading up to Canada’s National Forest Strategy and the national Forest Accord. The province continues to participate in international efforts to develop standards, criteria, indicators and certification schemes in order to protect its interests. These interests include ensuring that international standards recognize the range of forest ecosystems and values in British Columbia and the comprehensive program of initiatives the province has put in place to manage and conserve them.

The national and international initiatives described above reflect the increasing internationalization of land use and resource management decision-making that is part of the trend towards sustainability. Sustainable development — as outlined in Section 9.3.1 of this report — is helping to guide today’s forestry, land use and environmental decisions. Inherent in the concept of sustainability is the fading of boundaries between environment and economy, between present and future generations and between one jurisdiction and another.

Forest management and the agencies that regulate it are increasingly under scrutiny from individuals, companies and governments — often thousands of kilometres away. Although the perspective of these international players may be based on forest management models more appropriate to their own countries, they exert an influence in an increasingly interdependent world. Over the next few years, therefore, international opinion will likely increase in importance as one of the many factors shaping provincial decisions about land and resource use.

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