Carbon blow-out 'tragic'

19 Apr 2007

The Forest Owners Association says the carbon blow-out calculated by former climate change official Murray Ward and released by National Party environment spokesperson Nick Smith reflects a tragic failure of public policy.

"It is impossible to reverse before the end of the first Kyoto commitment period in 2012 — trees planted this winter will be too young to store significant carbon," says NZFOA environmental chair Peter Weir.

"But it may get considerably worse if carbon prices climb higher than those used by Mr Ward or if immature forests continue to be sprayed off and ripped out across the country. Sir Nicolas Stern, author of the highly regarded Stern Report on climate change, estimates the price of carbon in 2012 could be as high as US $85 per tonne of CO2.

"To stop the chainsaws and to encourage new planting, the government needs to immediately give an undertaking that it will allow owners of Kyoto-eligible forests to financially benefit from the estimated $2+ billion worth of carbon they will store for the nation from 2008 to 2012.

"For the government to appropriate all of this without compensation is morally wrong and jeopardises any future private investment in Kyoto forests."

He says the government also needs to give an assurance to forest owners that all emitters will either face the true cost of their increased emissions, or offset them with plantings. Only then will forestry be able to compete for land on a fair basis.

"The government's hasty ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and lack of real consultation over the development of its climate change policies has resulted in a tragic failure of public policy," Mr Weir says.

"However, forest owners are eager to get planting again. All it needs is the right assurances from the government and other political parties that their investments are secure.

"With the right signals, clear-felling of immature Kyoto plantations for conversion to livestock farming will no longer be a major concern. This will help bolster our Kyoto ledger in the first commitment period to 2012.

"We will also see a big increase in the planting of new Kyoto forests — including a more diverse range of species than we have now — which will benefit New Zealanders from the second commitment period and beyond."

For more information, please contact Peter Weir, Tel 0274 547 873