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October, 2021

Forest Owners says extra planting ‘just as well’ given slippage on carbon reduction targets

The Forest Owners Association is saying that foresters’ intentions to plant more trees is an immediate and practical insurance against New Zealand not achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The Association President, Phil Taylor, says the reaction to the Ministry for the Environment’s just released consultation document shows even the short-term greenhouse gas reduction targets are not going to be met.

“It is just as well that MfE can then cite a survey of landowners and forest managers’ intentions to plant larger areas of trees, than the 380,000 hectares of plantation exotics by 2035, which was anticipated by the Climate Change Commission at the beginning of the year.”

“MfE now estimates that the price of carbon, under the Emissions Trading Scheme, will result in between 806,000 and 1,370,000 hectares being planted, a mix of exotics and indigenous, on a longer time-scale to 2050.”

“MfE is stating in its document that ‘forestry could sequester between 18 and 32 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide’ in the year 2050.

“That is a huge volume.  You can see this amount in the context of New Zealand’s current total yearly gross emissions running at 82 million tonnes Carbon Dioxide equivalent,” Phil Taylor says.

But Phil Taylor says the forest industry continues to doubt whether even the more modest level of planting will occur. 

“New forests will occupy less than four percent of the sheep and beef estate, but it still requires 25,000 hectares of planting to be maintained year in and year out for the next 15 years.”

“Already, nursery stock is short, and some of the planting will also be needed in the calculations for offsetting methane and nitrous oxide emissions on farm.”

He also says the MfE report is right to highlight the post-forest benefits of wood material in combating climate change.

“For instance, MfE says that just the wood residues from harvesting existing forests could replace 70 per cent of aviation fuel usage.  There’s also the dairy industry rapidly converting its coal fuelled boilers over to using wood fuel.”

Phil Taylor says the report is being realistic about the cost of planting indigenous trees.  MfE states that establishing a hectare of native trees could cost up to $50,000 per hectare, whereas pine tree establishment costs up to $2,500 per hectare.  Native trees are also much slower at storing appreciable amounts of carbon.

“If I have one technical issue with the forestry side of the MfE report, it’s that there is some idea that planting forests over the next few years will result in increased carbon emissions.”

“That can’t be right.  The soil is not cultivated.  It’s not a machine process.  A planter will cut a standard single slit into the ground, put that tree in, and that’s it.  You wouldn’t be able to measure the amount of carbon emission which comes from that.”

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