Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Surrey—Newton.
I thank the hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster for this important motion. I know the member understands, as does our government, the importance of forestry to the people of his riding and to our country.
The forest industry employs more than 200,000 Canadians and contributes $22 billion a year to our GDP. In fact, it provides more jobs per dollar than any other resource sector. We export 33 billion dollars' worth of forest products to 180 countries around the world, and we are constantly looking for ways to expand international opportunities.
Government officials continue to meet regularly with their American counterparts trying to reach a new agreement on softwood lumber. Our goal is to negotiate a durable and equitable solution, one that will be fair to softwood producers, downstream industries, and consumers on both sides of the border. These are the good faith efforts of good friends. Both sides want to arrive at a new agreement because both sides understand the importance of forestry to the health of our economies and the protection of our environment.
For some of us, the forest industry might conjure up images of tarpaper shacks and logging camps, but that image is grossly outdated. Today, forestry is on the leading edge of technology and setting the pace on environmental performance. Its products are strengthening composite car parts, making vehicles lighter, reducing emissions, and replacing plastics made from non-renewable fossil fuels.
Today's forestry worker is as likely to be wearing a white lab coat as a red plaid shirt. She might be a genomics researcher, investigating ways to make trees more resistant to disease, or an economist, working to optimize supply chains. To paraphrase that classic Oldsmobile commercial, this is not your father's forest industry. In fact, the Canadian forest industry has transformed itself into one of the most innovative parts of our economy.
It was not that long ago that forestry seemed to be on the ropes. To many, it seemed like an outdated, even dying industry. Then something remarkable happened. Instead of wringing its hands, the industry rolled up its sleeves and began a transformation whose best chapters are still being written. Forestry leaders reached out to their critics, listened to them, and made changes to their operations. The industry invested in research, developed new products, and established new offshore markets, creating not just a new image but a new vision of what forestry was and could be.
Today, the forest industry is positioned to help address some of the biggest challenges facing our country, such as combatting climate change, driving innovation, creating economic opportunities for indigenous and rural communities, and advancing trade. Let me touch on each of these.
First, on climate change, it would be hard to overstate the importance of the forest sector to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I would even go so far as to say that there can be no global solution to climate change without the forest sector. It is that important. Why is that? It is because forestry is unique. It actually takes carbon out of the air. Most of us will remember enough of our high school science to know that trees suck up vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, storing it for decades. However, forestry's contribution goes far beyond that. It is developing clean technologies, producing green energy, reducing its need for energy and water, and lowering both emissions and waste. While Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions were rising between 1990 and 2012, pulp and paper mills were actually reducing their emissions by an impressive 66%, and it is just getting started.
Lignin, a material found in trees, could become the crude oil of the future, with biofuels substituting for fossil fuels in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. Then there is wood as a building material. Pound for pound, engineered wood can be as strong as steel, making it safe and practical not only in buildings but also in infrastructure such as bridges.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the tallest wood building in the world, a new student residence at the University of British Columbia. This magnificent building is not only an engineering and architectural showpiece; it is an environmental game-changer, storing close to 1,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide and saving more than 1,000 metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions. That is like taking 500 cars off the road for a year with a single building.
Forestry also helps to fight climate change through its sustainable management practices. Third parties have certified these practices as among the world's best. Canada now boasts 40% of the world's certified forests, far more than any other jurisdiction in the world. That matters, because our customers can be confident that wood products bought from Canada were harvested through sustainable practices. Any tree harvested on crown lands in Canada must be replaced, and permanent removal of forests for agriculture or municipal development, for example, is declining. The result is that actual deforestation is less than 0.02% a year. Quite simply, when the world wants to learn about sustainable forestry and best practices, it looks to Canada. Therefore, the forest sector has an essential role to play in combatting climate change.
Second, it is helping to drive innovation. For decades, the forest industry has been developing and investing in new products and new ways of operating. We look at the rise of clean tech and bio-energy, a renewable energy source derived from things like wood, wood waste, and straw. In July, I travelled to Port-Cartier, Quebec, to announce $44.5 million for the first commercial-scale facility to convert forest residues into a form of renewable fuel oil. This project is a shining example of governments working together to support the industry and advance Canada's bio-economy. An increasing number of remote and indigenous communities are now using bio-energy to end their dependence on high-emission diesel generators for their electricity. The government is working with industry and provinces to develop the forest products of the future through investments in R and D and innovation, and by helping first-in-kind clean innovations reach commercialization.
Third, forestry is a dynamic engine of growth, creating economic opportunity across our country, including in indigenous and remote communities.
Fourth, and related, forestry creates jobs at home by driving trade abroad. There has been a remarkable rise in the export of wood products to markets such as China, up more than 1,400% over the past 10 years. The U.S. market remains vitally important for Canadian producers of softwood lumber, but continuing to expand into other markets and other types of products is helping to diversify our trade and boost our prosperity. While its reach is global, the forest industry's impact remains local. It is the lifeblood of rural Canada and a major source of income for about one in seven municipalities across the country.
Our government believes in this industry. We have a clear vision of it playing an essential role in some of the most important issues of our times: combatting climate change, driving innovation, and creating economic opportunities for rural and indigenous communities. That is why we are standing by this industry. That is why we are continuing to work hard toward a new agreement on softwood lumber.