Forest Carbon Initiative
Forest management can generate greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits, either by increasing carbon sequestration (storage) or by avoiding emissions. Activities such as reforestation, fertilization and tree improvement can significantly increase carbon sequestration in forests, while reducing slash pile burning decreases emissions and improves air quality.
Recognizing this potential, the Province of British Columbia (B.C.) and the federal government are partnering to invest in forest carbon projects across the province.
The Forest Carbon Initiative (FCI) was launched in 2017 as a key element of B.C.'s commitment to take action on climate change. FCI will help meet provincial and federal climate change targets by delivering GHG benefits in the short term (2030), medium term (2050) and beyond through investments on the land base, changing practices and education and outreach.
B.C. is partnering with the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia (FESBC), BC Timber Sales (BCTS), Forests-for-Tomorrow (FFT), and others to deliver FCI.
FCI is supported by funding from the federal government's Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund (LCELF). Together, the province and federal government have committed $290 million to FCI from 2017/18 to 2021/22.
FCI Activity Types
FCI is managing forest carbon by investing in reforestation, fertilization, fibre utilization and tree improvement projects. Learn more about the different types of forest carbon activities below and through the FCI Project Portal.
Most healthy forests have a positive carbon balance - they absorb more GHGs from the atmosphere than they emit. However, when a severe natural disturbance occurs (e.g. insects, wildfire, etc.) that causes trees to die, these stands shift from being a carbon sink to a carbon source. Many forested areas across B.C. have been impacted by these types of natural disturbances as well as disturbances related to human activity (e.g. oil and gas activities, road construction, etc.).
Reforestation projects involve planting trees in areas affected by natural disturbances. Compared with natural forest regeneration, planting accelerates the rate at which these areas return to being a carbon sink.
Nutrient deficiency limits how fast and large trees grow and is thought to be common across B.C.’s forests. To boost forest productivity, the province has been fertilizing forests for decades. Periodic applications of nitrogen and other essential nutrients benefits forest growth and increases the amount of carbon they store. Prior to the establishment of FCI, approximately 17,000 hectares of forests were fertilized annually. Additional fertilization through FCI is projected to more than double the annual area treated in B.C. by 2020.
When logging takes place in B.C., some residual wood fibre is typically left behind. To reduce the risk of wildfires and free up space for new trees to be planted, it is common to pile and burn wood waste during ideal weather conditions. This practice, known as slash pile burning, impacts local air quality and increases GHG emissions.
Instead of burning wood waste in piles, this fibre can be transported off-site to be used for bioenergy in place of fossil fuels, pulp/paper and other products, reducing GHG emissions.
Young forests that are healthy, fast-growing and adapted to future climate, will capture additional carbon as they mature. Through tree breeding, tree seed orchards and associated activities, the tree improvement program provides improved seed for B.C.’s reforestation programs. Plantations established with improved seed grow faster, are better matched to the future climate and in some cases are more resistant to pests. Within FCI, a targeted set of tree improvement projects aim to increase the amount of improved seed available for planting programs in B.C., the gains associated with this seed, and refine the matching of seed sources to future climate.