Today the Ontario government released its discussion paper on climate change acknowledging the global significance of carbon stored in the province’s Far North boreal ecosystems and the need to protect these terrestrial carbon stores. CPAWS Wildlands League welcomes this and looks forward to the discussions on how to protect these globally significant carbon storehouses.
“We have more than 27 million hectares of boreal bog in northern Ontario. Boreal bogs, fens and wetlands are among the most concentrated terrestrial carbon stores on the planet,” said Janet Sumner, Executive Director for the group. “In addition to the carbon already stored in the Boreal system is the capacity of the boreal to sequester carbon. Neither of these should be diminished significantly or we risk serious consequences,” Sumner says.
The Ontario discussion paper opens the door to accounting for and protecting terrestrial carbon as part of its climate change strategy and positions Ontario as a leader within Canada, the group says.
CPAWS Wildlands League has been working to advance terrestrial carbon accounting in Canada since 2004. In 2010, Ontario’s Far North Science Advisory Panel described that the peatlands of the Far North store as much carbon as all the other natural ecosystems of Ontario combined and peatlands in the Far North annually sequester an amount of carbon equal to about a third of Ontario’s total carbon emissions. Scientists at the time added that about a tenth of the globe’s cooling benefit from peatlands comes from the Ontario Hudson Bay Lowland.
“The atmosphere doesn’t distinguish where carbon pollution comes from. Whether it’s a tailpipe, smokestack or disturbed peatland, all carbon releases matter. That’s why we need to be tracking and documenting all emissions including those from land use changes,” concludes Sumner. The group says that Ontario must follow through with counting and protecting terrestrial carbon stores if it is to get it right on climate change.
CPAWS Wildlands League is calling for a scientific assessment of all carbon stores in the Boreal Forest and supports maintaining this high-carbon density landscape largely free of the footprint of industrial development as a key plank in Ontario’s carbon stewardship strategy.
The Ontario Hudson Bay Lowland is one of the largest, intact ecosystems areas left on earth with rich wetlands and clean flowing rivers that support continentally important populations of wildlife, including threatened woodland caribou and healthy fisheries. This area also regulates climate, stores carbon and sustains the traditional activities of First Nations. Land use activities such as forestry, mining, road building, hydro development and others have the potential to disrupt the carbon stored in intact systems and exacerbate climate change impacts.