Pine Ban Will Leave 45 Mega Tonne Hole In Govt’s Carbon Budget – Climate Forestry Association

The Government’s emissions reduction plan has highlighted the extraordinary impact of its proposal to remove exotic trees from the permanent category of the ETS, increasing the country’s emissions by 45Mt – the equivalent of more than two years of road transport emissions – by 2035.

The first of three emissions plans, released yesterday by Climate Change Minister James Shaw, reinforced that “Forestry has a critical, ongoing role in reaching the net-zero component of Aotearoa New Zealand’s 2050 target.” However, the Government’s proposal to restrict exotic trees from the permanent category of the ETS – its first action under the plan’s Forestry section – will ensure that target can’t be met.

Climate Forestry Association spokesperson Dr Sean Weaver says it is scarcely believable that the Government’s long heralded emissions plan will be undermined by a single policy designed to appeal to the anti-forest lobby.

“The Government is putting New Zealand’s whole climate change strategy on the line for a misguided policy that will affect less than 3% of Aotearoa’s most marginal, rugged and hard to reach land,” says Dr Weaver.

“The emissions reduction plan figures show that removing exotics from the permanent category would increase emissions by 45 million tonnes by 2035. And worse, this is likely a to be a significant underestimate – already the uncertainty created by the consultation has put a large amount of planting on hold.

“Even the first Budget period 2021-2025 is likely to blow out if exotics are taken out of the permanent category of the ETS, given how hard it is to make native planting commercially viable and the impact the consultation on removing exotics has already had on planting rates.

“The Government’s new plan acknowledges that regenerative forestry can improve carbon removal and storage, and protect carbon stocks in the long-term – New Zealand simply cannot afford to reject this vital tool for decreasing our carbon footprint.

Dr Weaver says although the Climate Forestry Association supports native afforestation, and members have significant native reforestation projects, the slow growth rates of native trees alone will mean their impact on the country’s new carbon budgets will be minor and late.

“While investing in understanding the carbon yield of native trees and finding ways to reduce the cost of native afforestation is a laudable aim, the strategy – as yet undefined by the Government – will do little to meet our immediate needs to address the climate emergency,” says Dr Weaver.

“Exotic trees are our sprinters – they grow quickly and sequester much more carbon over the short term. Native trees, which grow far more slowly, are our long-distance runners, sequestering carbon over the long term. The point is, we need both, for immediate carbon reductions now and long-term sequestration.

“As the Government’s initial plan highlighted yesterday, without the right policy settings that recognise the role of exotic trees in our climate strategy, we will fail to meet our emissions targets. That will cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars as we are forced to subsidise indigenous reforestation, and buy expensive and uncertain credits offshore to offset what will now be a shortfall of nearly 150Mt.

“The Government’s plan has put a great deal of focus on providing incentives to reduce transport emissions. We applaud this because it is long overdue. But there is little point in doing that if at the same time we are getting rid of the exotic reforestation tool that will capture more than two years’ worth of the country’s entire road transport system. The gains we make in transportation reductions will be cancelled out by the losses in the forest sector.

“It’s time this Government took climate change as seriously as it says it does and put every resource we have available here in Aotearoa to work on reducing emissions.”

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