Zero Carbon Act solution in planting more trees

8 March 2018

The Forest Owners Association says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, should be listened to when he says words need to be turned into deeds to achieve New Zealand’s climate change mitigation goals.

Simon Upton says New Zealand should emulate Britain and enact a Zero Carbon Act because New Zealand has to catch-up on climate change.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Clark says the UK Zero Carbon Act is a good model to adopt for New Zealand conditions.

“Simon Upton has provided some timely advice as the government moves on its pre-election commitment to get serious about reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Plantation forestry already plays a major role in locking up atmospheric carbon. Simon Upton’s predecessor, Jan Wright, produced a report on biological greenhouse gas emissions and agriculture in October 2016. Her message was clear – forests can offset these emissions from livestock on a scale no other current technology can manage.”

“Forestry Minister Shane Jones recently acknowledged the huge impact that Jan Wright’s report had on his thinking in committing to a plan to see a billion trees planted in New Zealand in ten years,” Peter Clark says.

“With or without an Act of parliament to independently control the policy settings to reduce our net greenhouse gas emissions, plantation forestry will stand to play a vital role in assisting New Zealand agriculture meet climate change obligations, without destroying the base of that agriculture industry as other solutions might do.”

Peter Clark says he accepts Simon Upton’s qualification that forest sinks do not provide a permanent solution for reducing carbon emissions.

“However, use of wood in biofuels to replace fossil fuels and wood in construction to replace more energy intensive steel and concrete will provide lasting benefits. In an almost literal sense trees give us breathing space until the less emissions intensive technologies and land use practices are adopted. Over the past decade New Zealand should have been planting more trees and growing the national forest estate. That was a missed opportunity.”

“If we get Simon Upton’s recommended Act then that might give governments the focus to look after both short-term and long-term climate change policy and actions. This will provide the policy stability that all New Zealand business need to make investment decisions.”

Peter Clark did however sound a note of warning on planting trees to lock up carbon.

“Not all trees are created equal, nor grow equally. Plantation pine trees will have stored about 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare at maturity, at about 28 years. Harvesting and then replanting will maintain an average of 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide lock-up per hectare.”

“In contrast, a regenerating podocarp forest, such as rimu or totara, will lock-up not much more than 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide within their first fifty years. By all means encourage planting native trees, but people need to be aware that if your goal is carbon lock-up, fast growing exotics will lock up much more carbon per hectare than native trees, at least within the 2030 timeframe that is the immediate challenge under the Paris Agreement.”

 For further information contact Peter Clark, 021 726 197