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Call for political accord on Kyoto forest policy

Sunday 30 April

Call for political accord on Kyoto forest policy

Forest owners have united to ask all members of parliament to endorse six policy principles which they say will help New Zealand meet its Kyoto targets.

In a policy brochure which has been sent to all MPs, and which will be more widely distributed this week [subs: from 1 May], they say forestry will play a key part in any rational climate change package developed for New Zealand. But for this to occur, forest policy development has to happen now.

“Time is of the essence,” says NZ Forest Owners Association (NZFOA) president and campaign spokesperson Peter Berg.

“It will take two years for forest owners to gear up for major new plantings and a further three or four years for young trees to start sequestering significant quantities of carbon.

"By acting immediately, New Zealand will make its first significant step towards meeting its Kyoto commitments. It would not compromise other more controversial policy decisions which will be considered later in the year."

The campaign has the support of the NZFOA, the Federation of Maori Authorities, the Kyoto Forestry Association and the NZ Farm Forestry Association – organisations which represent the vast majority of NZ forest owners.

Mr Berg says New Zealand has a choice.

“In order to balance our carbon ledger we can start buying carbon credits from other countries like Russia now, or we can adopt policies which recognise the value created by forest owners when their trees store carbon. I think most New Zealanders would think the choice was simple.

“But for it to happen, we need to move beyond the debate about past Kyoto policy failures. All political parties need to engage constructively in the development of a new policy framework.”

He says the government has sent its policies back to the drawing board and most of the other parties have yet to flesh out their policy ideas. Forest growers have therefore decided to fill the policy vacuum.

“We have come up with six policy points for which we are seeking cross-party political endorsement. If these points can be agreed on, New Zealand’s Kyoto policies will finally be on the right track.

“Forest owners can help New Zealand meet its Kyoto obligations – saving many hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the process – if they financially benefit from the services they provide to the environment.

“They are keen to once again start planting more trees and have the potential to expand the area in forestry by 60-70,000 hectares a year – the area needed to meet the Kyoto targets. This figure was exceeded in the 1990s and is achievable now.”

Forest owners want government to:

-Remove the inequitable, retrospective ‘deforestation cap’.

-Allow land owners with Kyoto-qualifying forests (forests planted from 1990) – as well as those replanting non-Kyoto forests after harvest ­– to financially benefit from the value of the carbon their forests remove from the atmosphere.

-Introduce broad-based carbon charges, ensuring that all emitters of greenhouse gases face the same opportunity costs.

- Ensure that New Zealand’s Kyoto policies have the best long-term outcomes for New Zealand, even if they don’t exactly mirror current Kyoto rules.

- Develop a regime which puts a value on the environmental attributes of forestry, thereby encouraging investment in the sector.

- Act immediately.

ENDS

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