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Measures to address deforestation liabilities

Government will explore alternative measures to address deforestation liabilities

Officials have been asked to explore alternative measures to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions arising from deforestation, as part of the government’s review of climate change policies, the Minister of Forestry, Jim Anderton, announced today.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, deforestation (that is, removing trees and changing land use to, for example, dairying) creates large emission liabilities because the carbon previously stored in the forest is released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“Up until now, the Government’s policy has been to cap the liabilities that it will accept for deforestation at 21 million tonnes CO2 equivalent over the first commitment period of the Protocol (2008-2012). Decisions are yet to be made about what happens if the cap is breached," Jim Anderton said.

“The review has found a number of problems with this approach. For example, there is inequitable treatment of forestry under current policy compared with other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture.

“It is also clear that the current policy does not send strong signals to encourage landowners to keep their land in forests and establish new forests.

“Forests, and in particular commercial forests, play a vital role in helping New Zealand mitigate and adapt to climate change. They also deliver a range of environmental services, such as protection from adverse weather events and reduced nitrification of waterways. These are not always recognized by the wider community,” he said.

“The Government has also been listening to what forest owners have been saying during the Government-forest grower dialogue process, which has been running since July 2005 and reported back to Ministers in November.

“It is clear that the Government needs to take another look at the treatment of deforestation issues, and that’s what we will do.

“I am expecting initial advice from officials by March 2006 and this will be considered alongside further advice on climate change policy.

“The Government understands that the forest industry wants certainty on these issues as soon as possible. We will aim to deliver that, but the issues are complex and the options are strongly interlinked so they need to be considered together.

"There are trade offs between all options and it will be impossible to provide everyone with everything they want. In order to provide more certainty, final decisions will be made as soon as possible, but clearly, will still take some time,” Jim Anderton said.

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