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Forest owners: The ETS is on life support

Forest owners: The ETS is on life support

New Zealand has met its Kyoto obligations by a whisker, but it has little to do with the ETS, say forest owners.

“From 2008 to 2012 the country’s 25 per cent increase in carbon emissions was masked by carbon stored in forests planted in the 1990s. As these trees are harvested, forestry will move from being a carbon sink to being a carbon source,” says Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

“At that point New Zealand’s environmental credentials will be delivered a double whammy. Our steady increases in gross emissions will no longer be masked by forestry and indeed, forestry emissions will add to the negative ledger.”

Mr Rhodes says the government is portraying the ETS as a success because the Crown had a surplus of credits at the end of 2012. But that has little or nothing to with the ETS. It’s all due to a boom in forest planting in the 1990s. Since then we have moved to net deforestation, a trend that appears to be gathering pace.”

In its report to the United Nations Climate Change Convention in December last year, the government predicted the line from carbon sink to carbon source would be crossed in 2017.

“With large areas of harvested forest lying fallow and tree nurseries reporting falling demand for seedlings, Mr Rhodes says this line could be crossed much earlier than this. It may have occurred already.

“New Zealand has escaped by a whisker. The Kyoto reporting years from 2008-2012 portray the ETS in a good light, so long as you don’t look too closely.

“Our ETS is like a patient on life support. It’s meant to be a vibrant and alive, encouraging good behaviour like planting trees and discouraging excessive emissions, but it’s not achieving anything.

“If the government truly believes the planting of new forests is a good thing for New Zealand – as it has said so many times – it needs to provide forest owners with an income stream from carbon. A good example is California which this week issued its first carbon credits to a forest owner.

“Forest offset credits there are selling for $US10 a ton. In New Zealand, a forest owner would struggle to get more than $NZ3 a tonne.”


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