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Kyoto Concerns Unite Foresters

NZ Forest Owners Association
NZ Farm Forestry Association

18 September 2001

Government ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change could cause major problems for New Zealand’s $3.6 billion forest export industry, say forest owners.

Under the protocol, forest owners will receive credits, based on the carbon absorbed by trees planted since 1 January 1990. Owners of trees planted before 1990 will be liable for penalties if they do not replant on harvest.

In a joint statement, the NZ Forest Owners Association and the NZ Farm Forestry Association said not enough homework had been done on the likely social and economic impacts of the move.

The Government says it intends to ratify the protocol in mid-2002. The protocol will commit New Zealand to reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels within a decade.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Berg said the industry was not commenting one way or the other about the reality of climate change.

“Our concern is about the impact of the protocol on the forest sector, New Zealand’s third largest export earner. The potential ramifications are huge. So are the risks,” he said.

“Until proper analysis has been completed, government should be extremely cautious about making commitments which could be costly, disruptive, give unfair advantages to overseas competitors, and seriously distort the forest industry in New Zealand.”

Farm Forestry Association President Mike Halliday said small forest growers were just as concerned as their larger colleagues.

“If Kyoto is ratified with undue haste, we are likely to see distortions in land use and price,” he said.

“Log prices could drop as a result of subsidised forest planting in competing countries.”

Mr Halliday said issues that needed to be addressed included the ownership of carbon credits.

“Will these be claimed in whole or part by government? And, if so, what impact will this have on land users who want to offset their greenhouse gas emission charges?” he asked.

“We also need to know where liability will fall for the replanting of investment blocks, particularly should the government claim the credits.”

Messrs Berg and Halliday said the government’s own discussion papers highlighted the complexity of the issues facing forestry and agriculture under the Kyoto protocol.

“We recognise the importance the government places on Kyoto and on New Zealand’s clean, green positioning in world markets.

“But on behalf of all New Zealanders we must ring a warning bell about the need to make haste slowly. We are dealing with a very complex issue with major implications for one of our largest export industries. Detailed analysis must be completed before a decision to ratify is made.”


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