Thanks in part to its use of New Brunswick wood pellets, Britain recently marked a milestone in the global fight against climate change – it completed 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes without burning coal to generate electricity. It’s the first time that has happened in 230 years.

Biowaste and products like wood pellets are being recognized as key sources of green energy that will be essential in the global movement to reduce fossil fuel use. Leading the way in biofuel developments is Atlantic Canadian forestry giant J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI),  which says it has significantly reduced its carbon footprint, is outpacing the goals of the Paris climate accord, and contributed to the coal record for Britain.

As industries around the globe look for ways to reduce carbon emissions, JDI’s determination to use 100 per cent of every tree it harvests has meant the profitable conversion of biowaste into green energy for heat and power in many of its operations. According to new information from the company provided to Highlights, steam and heat from the west side Saint John pulp mill to the tissue plant next door are displacing about 35,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

As well, biogas generated by treating organic waste at JDI’s Lake Utopia paper mill near Saint John has offset the use of natural gas to generate steam. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) at the plant have been reduced by 25 per cent.

The JDI Grand River Pellets plant in St. Leonard, N.B. has brought new life to the economy in the northern part of the province, especially the port of Belledune.

The exported pellets are also helping reduce carbon emissions in other parts of the world, notably in Great Britain where pellet use is helping the country reduce coal burning, including the recent record.

Added to green energy improvements is the company’s long-standing tree planting program. Since 1957, more than one billion trees have been planted – a national record in Canada for a private company.

“Over the next 50 years, the forests that JDI owns and manages will absorb more than 92 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of 350,000 cars off the road every year for 50 years,” says spokeswoman Mary Keith.

“We are developing new markets, developing new products, and doing it in a way that is helping to mitigate climate change,” Keith says. “It’s a good thing in terms of creating jobs, reducing our carbon footprint, and generating new markets for made-in-New Brunswick materials.

“We think there is an opportunity to have a discussion around what forest resources are doing to impact climate change and the reduction of CO2. There is no other sector in the province that impacts as many communities and as many suppliers as forestry.”

Even New Brunswick farmers are benefitting from bioenergy thanks to JDI’s Biomass Ash to Farmers’ Fields program. The ash is the by-product of green energy biomass boilers at two New Brunswick JDI locations: Irving Pulp & Paper in Saint John, and the Scierie Grande Rivière in Saint Leonard. Since the beginning of the program in 2010, more than 108,000 tonnes of Canadian Food Inspection Agency-approved  biomass ash has been diverted from landfills to hundreds of farmers’ fields across the Maritimes.

“Our forest product operations are exceeding the Paris climate change accords,” Keith says. “The Government of Canada’s target reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is 30 per cent from 2005 levels. Our pulp and paper mills have reduced emissions by 44 per cent from 2005. In total, we have reduced GHG emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels through over $150 million in energy efficiency investments.”