Today the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (“MNRF”) released a draft Forest Biomass Action Plan (the “Draft Plan”), a commitment made in Ontario’s forest sector strategy, released on August 20, 2020. The Draft Plan is now open for comment until June 21, 2021. This bulletin briefly summarizes the Draft Plan.
The Draft Plan seeks to examine innovative uses of forest biomass, such as mill by-products and underutilized forest biofibre, for applications in heat and power generation and sustainable, low-carbon consumer products. The Draft Plan strives to secure jobs, support economic development, and encourage sustainability in the forest sector.
The Draft Plan seeks to achieve the following five objectives:
Identify pathways to markets for forest biomass by:
- further refining Ontario’s inventory of forest biomass;
- publishing reports summarizing the types of forest bioproducts and technologies and describing current and future demand for Ontario bioproducts;
- completing a jurisdictional scan;
- developing a life cycle inventory for traditional and non-traditional wood products, study biomass carbon dynamics, and refine life-cycle impact assessment models;
- supporting development of regional clusters; and
- conducting collaborative research studies on soil quality, stand development, productivity, and biodiversity.
Support demand for forest bioenergy and bioproducts by:
- ensuring that existing facilities receive ongoing access to the provincial market at fair compensation;
- publishing a report quantifying the financial contribution of forest biomass;
- providing resources for the development of community-led projects;
- advancing the use of forest biomass through the Ontario Bioheat Initiative;
- creating a provincial bioheat strategy;
- engaging with potential industry users to integrate forest biomass into supply chains; and
- pursuing government procurements that use biomass to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, energy, and other products.
Improve the business and regulatory environments for the use of forest biomass by:
- reviewing and updating Ontario’s Forest Biofibre Directive;
- streamlining permitting and reduce regulatory burdens;
- making forest biomass projects eligible in economic development and business support programs;
- drafting a Forest Biomass Action Plan;
- integrating the benefits of forest biomass use in provincial Emissions Performance Standards; and
- advocating on behalf of Ontario’s forest biomass interests in national climate change initiatives, such as the Clean Fuel Standard.
Support holistic, culturally relevant pathways for Indigenous community involvement in forest biomass value chains to support reconciliation between Indigenous communities and the Crown by:
- providing opportunities for Indigenous businesses by building forest biomass capacity and knowledge;
- working with Indigenous communities for greater Indigenous involvement and benefit from the use of forest biomass;
- supporting Indigenous participation in forest biomass project investments;
- supporting Indigenous community applications to federal forest biomass funding programs;
- facilitating preferred access to forest biomass for proposals with Indigenous participation, through regulations under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act; and
- supporting Far North Indigenous communities developing bioenergy systems to replace diesel fuels with local forest biomass.
Communicate, collaborate, and inform on forest biomass opportunities by:
- creating information, communication, and marketing materials to support prospective forest biomass users;
- supporting and participating in forest sector innovation networks;
- facilitating discussions between stakeholders to increase the use of forest biomass.
- engaging with partners and stakeholders to ensure alignment between regional, provincial, and federal initiatives.
MNRF is seeking comments from interested stakeholders and will further engage with interested First Nations and Métis communities. Comments may be submitted to Karen Jackson, Forest Industry Division, Forest Economics Section via the Environmental Registry until June 21, 2021.