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Forestry - The Unsung Hero Of The Kyoto Protocol

15 February 2005

Forestry - The Unsung Hero Of The Kyoto Protocol

The real heroes of the Kyoto Protocol are the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who have invested over the years in commercial planted forests and who work in the forestry and wood processing industries, say industry leaders.

The Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty to address climate change, is due to enter into force tomorrow (Wednesday 16 February). New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002.

New Zealand Forest Owners Association President Peter Berg said that without the commercial forests planted since 1990 – which are recognised by the treaty - New Zealand would not have been in a position to ratify the Kyoto Protocol .

“New Zealand’s “Kyoto” forests provide enormous flexibility in meeting the country’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Because they generate a carbon surplus of some 50 million tonnes, the Government will not have to buy carbon credits on the world market to meet its carbon emissions target under the Protocol.”

The Kyoto Protocol requires New Zealand to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels but emissions have been increasing with economic growth and expanding agricultural output.

Mr Berg warned that a failure to recognise the industry’s contribution could mean the country’s ability to meet future Kyoto obligations could be severely compromised .

“The Government congratulates itself for making a strong response to climate change but its Kyoto policies have so far provided no real advantage for, and may have even disadvantaged the industry that enabled this response to be made,” he said.

“The Government has kept carbon credits for itself and owners of forests planted before 1990 face penalties if they decide not to replant forests after harvesting. This is causing considerable uncertainty in the industry. It is also in stark contrast to the treatment accorded the agricultural sector which despite its methane emissions gets off with a small contribution to climate change research.”

Mr Berg said a potential way forward existed, if government and industry could agree on joint initiatives to encourage the industry’s growth and profitability.

He said increased Government investment in the forest and wood processing industry’s development made environmental as well as economic sense.

“In a just released report, “The Cost of US Forest-based Carbon Sequestration” the Pew Centre in Washington found that using forests to remove greenhouse gases and store carbon was as cost-effective as other strategies including cutting pollution by switching to alternative fuels or improving energy efficiency”.

New Zealand Forest Industries Council Chairman Lees Seymour said reaching a satisfactory industry development agreement with the Government was a priority. Only industry development and growth would provide a sound basis for new planting.

“We don’t plant trees to feel good. We are in business and the key to our ongoing investment is demand for our products”.

“As New Zealand’s third largest exporter forestry makes a huge social, environment, and economic contribution. In the new, Kyoto-constrained world, we are looking for some recognition and a partnership approach to ensuring the industry’s ongoing profitablity.”

Mr Seymour said the industry’s environmental contribution extended beyond growing trees into the processing of wood based products.

“New Zealand’s wood industries are also climate change heroes. They use renewable materials from carbon sinks, consume use much less energy than competing industries and the final products also store carbon”.

Mr Seymour highlighted the recent report by the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) “Timber products in New Government Buildings”. It found that, compared to concrete and steel, timber is more sustainable because carbon emissions from timber are very low. In some cases they are negative, meaning that the carbon stored in timber is greater than the carbon releases associated with other materials used in the building industry.

“New Zealand’s “four million careful owners”, as the Government calls them, wanting to take a stand on climate change can do so by planting trees and buying sustainably produced New Zealand wood products,” said Mr Seymour.

“The Government’s policies should not force the heroes of the Kyoto Protocol into becoming the villains of the piece”.

The Pew Centre report may be found at: sub_press_room/climate_and_forests.cfm

The BRANZ report may be found at:

About Forestry

NZFIC represents and promotes the interests of all sectors involved in the New Zealand forest industry. Membership comprises forestry companies and industry associations who collectively own and manage a sustainable, planted production forest resource of 1.8 million hectares.

New Zealand forestry directly employs 23,000 people, accounts for 4 percent of GDP, has annual sales of more than $5 billion and is the country’s third largest export earner at $3.5 billion annually. Through its Wood Processing Strategy and Vision 2025, the industry aims to become New Zealand’s largest export sector, directly employ 60,000 people, contribute 14 percent of GDP and record an annual turnover of $20 billion.

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