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International support for role of Kyoto forests

11 December 2008

International support for role of Kyoto forests

New Zealand and other southern hemisphere countries have won international support for the development of new climate change rules that will allow forestry to make a big contribution to fighting climate change.

Rules in the Kyoto Protocol that underpin forestry policies in New Zealand and some other countries have been the centre of conflict between forest growers and government. They have also had the opposite effect to that intended * they have encouraged deforestation, rather than the planting of new forests.

Meeting in Poznan, Poland, where international climate change talks are being held, the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA), together with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), called for more recognition to be given to the role of forests and forest-based industries in combating climate change.

"With experience, it is now clear that a number of the Kyoto rules applying to forestry are not as accurate or as flexible as they could be including the treatment of harvesting emissions and land use change," said ICPFA president Teresa Presas.

NZ Forest Owners president Peter Berg says an ICFPA position paper calls for climate policies in the post-Kyoto era beginning in 2013 to be durable, consistent, flexible and cost-effective.

"Policy certainty is vitally important when you are planting a forest * it's a long-term enterprise with a lot of the investment costs up front. You can't have policy swerves, about-faces and second thoughts with a crop that is going to take at least 30 years to reach maturity," he says.

"It is in the interests of everyone around the world that forest owners are provided with a rational, stable, investment environment so they can get on with growing trees. Sustainably managed forest plantations, when established on previously non-forested land, can make a huge contribution toward mitigating climate change."

He says the agreement that succeeds Kyoto needs to be flexible enough to fit the varying circumstances faced by different countries. Rather than attempting to write detailed rules that apply to all countries and all circumstances, there needs to be a principle established * does this policy result increased carbon sequestration or does it not?

Mr Berg says New Zealand forest owners were the first in the world to face the full cost of emissions arising from the conversion of pre-1990 plantations to other uses. This attracted the attention of international counterparts who were concerned at the implications if their own governments also based their climate change policies for forestry on the precise wording of the Kyoto Protocol, rather than what was good for the climate in the longrun.

"The NZFOA, with support from South Africa, Australia and several other countries including Brazil, developed a position paper that, after discussion and amendment, has been adopted internationally by the ICFPA and endorsed by World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

"We are proud of our association's role in this, particularly that of our chief executive David Rhodes, and will be doing everything to ensure that the paper becomes the basis of rational international climate change policies for forestry post-2012."


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