Does the government want more trees or not?

Friday 14 Oct 2022

 
NZ foresters are saying a suggestion by Climate Change Minister James Shaw to centralise buying carbon credits in central government, and decoupling the Emissions Trading Scheme from forestry, is a message that trees are irrelevant to fighting climate change.

Forest Owners Association President Grant Dodson says he wholeheartedly agrees that forest planting should not delay any actions to reduce the overall output of greenhouse gas emissions.

“However, there is a limit to how much gross emissions can be reduced, either by 2035 or by 2050, without knee-capping the New Zealand economy. If we had started earlier, with greater commitment by successive governments, we might not be in this position, but we are.”

“Forestry can buy us time to meet those targets. Countless independent studies have all concluded – we must plant fast-growing trees because the need to soak up carbon is now very urgent. Or we don’t meet our targets.”

The Climate Change Commission has stated forests are the only option available now for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at scale. It has assessed an additional 380,000 hectares of exotics must be planted by 2035 to meet 5-year carbon budgets. Grant Dodson says planting is at about that level.

“But now the government is floating ideas to drive the planting rate down again. This will happen if the government decides it will be the sole purchaser of forestry units and thus control price. It’ll be as successful as when the government took over meat exports through the Meat Board in the mid-1980s.”

The President of the Farm Forestry Association Graham West adds that integrating farming and forestry on the same property can make for a more profitable farm operation. “Many members of the Farm Forestry Association have been planting trees on 10 – 20 percent of their farm. With the right policies and encouragement, farmers will make a major contribution to meet our carbon targets and earn timber income as well.”

Grant Dodson points to the report just issued by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, which raises concerns about the volume of agricultural methane, which will remain in the environment after 2050, even if methane reduction goals are met.

“Upton directly says huge areas of exotic forestry need to be planted just to offset this methane. Other than de-stocking, he doesn’t see alternatives to using trees to offset.” Both forestry leaders emphasise that it will be hard for New Zealand to meet its international targets.

Grant Dodson says “Changes in technology, business practice, and land-use are all vital and all way beyond tinkering at the margin. But what we have right now is yet another signal to would-be forest investors that the government is weak on the real means to fight climate change.”

Source: Forest Owners Association



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