Since 2012, QMSP has encouraged its producer-members to employ more environmentally friendly practices. And the organization is actively engaged in learning about sustainable development issues, notably through various university research projects. Through all these initiatives, QMSP shows that the maple industry is doing its part in the fight against climate change, using a strategy consistent with that of the Québec government.
In 2012, in collaboration with Groupe AGÉCO, QMSP conducted its first environmental assessment, identifying the effects of maple production on the environment, such as climate change. This assessment was updated with data from 2015 to identify improvements. QMSP is currently involved in updating knowledge about carbon storage in forests.
QMSP uses the scientifically recognized and internationally used process of life cycle analysis (LCA) to measure environmental impacts at every stage in the life of maple syrup—from collecting the sap to canning the syrup, to consumption and disposal of container. The method is based on ISO standards 14040 – 14044.
The evaporation (processing) of tree sap has the greatest environmental impact in the life cycle of maple syrup.
Maple syrup processing facilities are modernizing, notably the transition of evaporators to equipment with a lower carbon footprint. This is among the most promising advances in reducing the ecological impact of maple syrup production. At the industry level, evaporation fuelled by oil or wood is the largest source of GHG emissions.
It’s important for maple producers to understand the environmental consequences of what they do on several issues, particularly climate change. QMSP recommends calculating the carbon footprint over the entire life cycle of the product as part of the approach.
All human activity generates some level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. These gases absorb and re-emit part of the sun’s rays (infrared radiation), causing the greenhouse effect.
Producers can reduce their environmental impact by adopting technologies that emit lower levels of GHGs, for example by replacing oil-fired evaporators with those powered by pellets or electricity.
QMSP updates its GHG footprint every year, so that its evolution can be tracked over time. The organization has been doing this for producers for several years now and can attest to the improvements the industry has made in meeting target.
The carbon footprint of maple production has improved over the years through:
- the greater use of cleaner (less GHG-emitting) energy sources
- the greater use of reverse osmosis, which purifies sap to increase Brix concentration before it’s boiled.
In May 2018, QMSP committed to the fight against climate change by setting GHG reduction targets for 2023 and 2030. By doing so, QMSP maintained its leadership position in environmental approach and performance, contributing to global efforts with a strategy consistent with those of the Québec and federal governments. With the scenarios provided at that time, QMSP committed to emission reduction targets of, respectively, 16% and 29% for 2023 and 2030. These targets are constantly updated to ensure consistency with international protocols.
GHG Reduction Efforts Undertaken by QMSP
Carbon neutrality can be achieved by offsetting the GHGs generated by a product or service that cannot be averted through reduction initiatives.
For a maple product to be considered carbon neutral in Québec, the producer must calculate its carbon footprint, set an annual reduction target, and choose the strategies needed to achieve it, such as using an evaporator that emits lower levels of GHGs. By definition, carbon neutrality means that every tonne of CO2 caused by a human activity is offset by an equivalent amount of CO2 being eliminated. Any such carbon-neutrality initiative for maple products must go through a certification process, such as:
- Carbon Neutral Organic Maple Syrup by ECOCERT for producers certified organic
- International standards (e.g.: PAS 2060, Greenhouse Gas Protocol, 1SO 14064-1).
Carbon Credits and the Carbon Market
A carbon credit is a permit or certificate that bestows the right to emit one tonne of greenhouse gases (GHG). A credit may be traded on the carbon market. There are several carbon markets set up to exchange emission credits, including one in Québec (SPEDE). Sylvicultural management enterprises represent the only entity with the potential to offer carbon sequestration in maple forests (according to our study conducted in collaboration with Groupe AGÉCO in 2014).
Carbon Storage and the Maple Forest
The maple forest under syrup production in Québec absorbs and stores an amount of carbon equivalent to the emissions of:
- 440 million litres of gasoline per year
- 220,000 vehicles per year
The maple stands of Québec constitute an enormous carbon sink, contributing to the reduction of global climate change.
The Québec sugar bush absorbs and stores 743,674 metric tonnes of carbon each year. That’s 11 times more carbon than caused by the production of maple syrup.
In 2019, maple trees producing syrup sequestered the equivalent of 0.9% of the GHGs emitted in Québec. This represents the carbon coming from the tailpipes of nearly 220,000 cars on the road or 4% of the entire Québec fleet of vehicles. If we account for all of Québec’s maple trees—in or out of syrup production—the carbon sequestration potential is 4.8% of all Québec GHGs, or the carbon released by 1,200,000 cars per year. That’s 22% of all automobiles in the province.
The Québec Sugar Bush is a Boon to the Ecosystem
From climate control to high-quality consumer products, Québec’s maple forests provide our overall ecosystem with benefits that are often overlooked.
At least 12 ecological services have been identified and grouped into these three categories:
- Regulating services
- Supply services
- Cultural services
Regulating services concern the capacity of ecosystems to sustain themselves in conditions conducive to human existence, at the local level (e.g., erosion control, pollination) or at the global level (e.g., climate control).
The Québec sugar bush provides seven ecological goods and services that fall into this category:
- Climate Control
Carbon sequestration and storage, reducing atmospheric carbon and moderating climate change. Climate control amounts to more than half of the value of the total ecological services attributed to our maple forests.
- Air Quality
Filtration of water pollutants.
- Erosion Control
Conservation of soil structure through inhibition of leaching.
- Biological Control
Mitigation of disease and pests.
Promotes reproduction of plants and vegetation by insects and animals.
- Water Quality
Filtration of water pollutants.
- Water Supply
Flood control, protecting community water supplies.
This pertains to services provided directly to consumers. For a sugar bush, it of course includes maple sap that is processed into maple syrup and other derivative products, wood and its fibre, as well as non-timber products such as food (mushrooms, berries, edible plants, etc.).
This category includes two ecological goods and services:
- Maple Sap
- Production of maple products (syrup, maple water, and other commercial derivatives)
- Forest Products other than Maple Sap
- Production of maple products such as lumber, firewood, and fibre
- Production of cultivated and harvested products other than maple syrup, such as food (mushrooms, berries, edible plants, etc.).
These services are regarded as intangible but nonetheless important to Québec culture. They include recreation (leisure activities and eco-tourism), aestheticism, and cultural values (education, heritage, and culture).
Three ecological goods and services in this category apply to the Québec sugar bush:
- Recreation and Agritourism
- Activities for tourism and recreation.
- Aesthetic Values
- Appreciation for the beauty of natural assets and landscape.
- Cultural Values
- Education, heritage, and culture associated with the Québec sugar bush.