Forest sink initiative a good start

1 Sep 2006

The Forest Owners Association has welcomed the government's decision to go ahead with a revamped Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative.

"This is a step in the right direction. Both the minister of forestry and the minister of climate change have listened to feedback about the original proposals and have made some important changes," says NZFOA chief executive David Rhodes.

"Assuming the final conditions of participation are acceptable, the relaxation of the harvesting restrictions will make some land owners more likely to participate.

"It will help them derive an income from storing carbon from the atmosphere — an environmental service which is very important to society."

The Kyoto Protocol created a market value for carbon storage from 1990. Mr Rhodes says this is something the government has recognised by granting PFSI emission credits for indigenous forests from this date.

"No rationale has been provided for the later qualifying date for non-indigenous forestry, and this is of concern," he says.

"However a very important principle has been established. Forest owners are deriving a market-based income for the environmental services they provide."

He says forest owners expect to see this reflected in the government’s Kyoto policies as they apply to conventional plantation forests, where wood fibre production is the main economic driver. Unlike the so-called permanent sinks, these forests are planted and harvested by clear-felling on a regular cycle.

"Policies need to provide an appropriate level of recognition and encouragement for plantation forests which have been planted since 1989, as they qualify for credits under the Kyoto Protocol.

"However we remain concerned that the notion of a deforestation cap, whereby forest owners will be taxed for the loss of carbon if they fail to replant harvested forests, still appears to be on the table.

"So long as there is sufficient market-based recognition of the carbon storage service provided by plantation forests, there will be no need for an arbitrary cap. We can then start to rectify the rate of new planting which has stalled in the last two years."