The government of New Zealand responded with some irritation to my column last week, which castigated a national strategy for meeting its Kyoto climate targets by allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise by 22% from 1990 to 2007.
All was well, it said. The 600,000 hectares of forests that were planted in the 1990s would soak up all the excess CO2 – around 90m tonnes of it between 2008 and 2012. In fact, the country was likely to be ahead of its Kyoto target of stabilising emissions at 1990 levels.
But back home this policy is controversial, to say the least, with many experts accusing the government of a sleight of hand. They include the independent but prestigious Sustainability Council of New Zealand.
The central problem seems to be that when it comes to carbon, Middle Earth is a scientific minefield. And the Kyoto rules give the government considerable potential to pick and choose which carbon emissions and which carbon sinks from forests it declares for the purposes of meeting its targets.
There are, it turns out, two sets of carbon accounts.