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National And Labour Get It Wrong On Climate Change

6 August, 2004

Both National And Labour Get It Wrong On Climate Change

The forest and wood processing industries have expressed disappointment that National has followed Labour’s lead in advocating the nationalisation of forest carbon sink credits.

New Zealand Forest Owners Association Chief Executive Rob McLagan said the industry was not opposed to action to address climate change but had consistently sought to achieve recognition for the role played by forest owners.

“In respect of carbon credits, National’s policy announced yesterday is no different from Labour’s: forest sinks are to be used as a ‘cash cow’ to shield other competing sectors –notably agriculture and the high energy users like concrete and steel - from the full impact of the policies used to implement New Zealand’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Not only is this inequitable, it is ultimately self-defeating – an important incentive for planting new forest sinks is removed and New Zealand’s future ability to absorb carbon emissions will be reduced”.

New Zealand Forest Industries Council Chief Executive Stephen Jacobi said that the industry continued to negotiate a framework agreement with the Government that would address the industry’s ongoing concerns about climate change policy.

“The proposed Forest Industry Framework Agreement is at best a “Plan B” strategy given that the Government’s decision on sink ownership appears to be final. It is disappointing that, beyond vague reference to a carbon trading regime, National’s policy does not even contain this element of recognition.”

Mr McLagan said that, like the Government, National had also failed to articulate a coherent policy for land use change for forests planted before 1990 which do not attract credits in terms of the Kyoto Protocol.

“Forests harvested between 2009 and 2012, i.e. in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, are likely to be pre-1990 forests. National’s policy is silent on what happens if these forests are not replanted and while the Government has undertaken to assume deforestation liabilities up to 10 per cent of the annual area harvested considerable uncertainty remains for forest owners. Under both policies it is not clear whether some liabilities will be incurred and how these liabilities might be apportioned between forest owners and landowners” said Mr McLagan.

Mr Jacobi said one positive development was National’s decision not to implement a carbon charge.

“In a country increasingly short of sustainable and competitive energy, the last thing we need is to increase the costs of the energy supplies we do have. New Zealand’s forestry and wood processing industries compete every day in international markets against countries like Australia, the United States, Chile and Brazil, which have no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. It makes no sense to hamstring our competitiveness in this way”.

Mr Jacobi said rather than penalise the sector, the Government and National should be promoting the increased use of wood products as the world’s most sustainable, renewable and energy-efficient materials.

“Promoting consumption of wood products promotes forestry and provides a direct means of addressing climate change”.

Mr McLagan and Mr Jacobi said the forest and wood processing industries would continue to work with the Government, National and other political parties to seek improvements to the policy mix in the interests of both climate change and industry development.

ENDS


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