May 25, 2010
MAY 2010 is looking like a good month for forests. In a couple of days, on the 27th, the Oslo Forest Climate Conference is expected to mark another step on the road to a comprehensive deal on tropical deforestation. And last week, on the 18th, an unlikely-seeming collection of forest-products companies and environmental organisations announced the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which should drastically change the way in which huge areas of Canadian forest are managed.
The forests wrapped around the planet at high northern latitudes (boreal forests, also called taiga) are second only to tropical forests in total area, and account for as much as 200 billion tonnes of stored carbon. About a third of the ring is in Canada, which has some 570 million hectares (1.4 billion acres) of boreal forest: only Russia boasts more. Only about 13% of that land is subject to the new agreement—but that is still an area greater than that of Spain and Portugal. The parties to the agreement, 21 companies which make pulp, paper and other wood products, and between them hold 70% of the boreal timber rights in Canada, and nine big environmental groups, ranging from the uncontroversial Nature Conservancy to firebrands like Greenpeace, say this is the biggest conservation deal in history.