Australian forestry and carbon credits

Friday 17 Sep 2021

With the interest and concerns over the amount of New Zealand pastoral land going into forestry it prompted me to look over the ‘ditch’ to see if comparable interest was being generated over there. Australia has not progressed their emissions reduction policy to the same degree as New Zealand to the point where many have criticised the Federal Government as being irresponsible for the lack of progress.

It has actually got to the point now where the recently negotiated Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the UK is being questioned due to Australia’s failure to make progress on what they agreed to do under the Paris climate agreement. The UK had removed any requirements to the Paris Agreement in the FTA whereas there was an expectation from the UK opposition parties that there would be inclusion of reduction policies in any such agreements.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s (UK opposition) business secretary, said the government should be doing more to put pressure on Australia to come forward with stronger commitments on greenhouse gas emissions before Cop26, rather than watering down a trade agreement. He said: “Australia is one of the world’s biggest polluters and key to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. But rather than piling pressure on them, the UK government has simply rolled over."

So, a tacit warning to New Zealand that when conjuring up FTA’s, words may not be enough and action supporting the words (policies) are required. In reality with the latest policies being rolled out in New Zealand and the wide inclusion into the ETS programme New Zealand should be on safer ground than most countries although the exclusion of Australia having to meet similar requirements does provide them with trade advantages, at least in the short term.

However, back to land going under trees in Australia compared to New Zealand, the lack of a well-developed ETS market in Australia seems to have resulted in less motivation to develop the carbon farming sector in Australia. Given that land is cheaper over there plus potentially easier access for harvesting, if that is considered to be part of the income stream, it is surprising there is not greater evidence of widespread plantings.

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