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Climate change initiative on conservation land

Major climate change initiative on conservation land

Six pilot projects to store carbon on about 40,000 hectares of public conservation land are to be tendered

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Six pilot projects to store carbon on about 40,000 hectares of public conservation land are to be tendered to commercial investors in a major new climate change initiative announced by Conservation Minister Chris Carter today.

"A unique opportunity exists to significantly increase the level of investment in the conservation of New Zealand's native forests and species while at the same time offering New Zealand companies a way of offsetting the carbon emissions of their business," Mr Carter said.

"To capitalise on this opportunity, the government has agreed to permit the development of six pilot projects on public conservation land, which will be offered to commercial investors in a competitive tender run by the Department of Conservation (DOC)."

Details of the projects are still being developed but they are likely to be of two types. The first will set aside specific areas of conservation land for either replanting or natural regeneration of forests on land which was not in forest prior to 1989, thus making these measures Kyoto compliant.

The second type of project, likely to be the largest of the two, will involve major pest control initiatives on conservation land to measure and assess increases in carbon storage, both through the removal of pests which may emit methane and through increased growth in shrubs and trees with the pests gone.

While pest control measures are not Kyoto compliant, they can be traded on the international 'grey market' and they do comply with the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The benefits for conservation from this initiative are potentially very substantial indeed because they will result in intensive management of areas of conservation land not currently targeted, "Mr Carter said.

"Companies have already been approaching DOC with multi-million dollar conservation and carbon storage proposals. The government's decisions mean that all New Zealand companies are put on a level playing field in a tender process for the carbon storage opportunities conservation land offers.

"The government intends to evaluate the conservation and carbon storage value from these projects after two years. At this point, we will decide whether to permit further carbon offset projects to proceed on conservation land," Mr Carter said.

"New Zealanders have always understood the social value of protected landscapes, but climate change is starting to demonstrate just how important an economic resource our native forests could be in future."

In a separate initiative, the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation are also examining the use of public conservation land as an offsets regime to assist government departments in achieving their goal of carbon neutrality.


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