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February, 2021

Foresters say pines to be relied on to meet climate targets

The Forest Owners Association says the Climate Change Commission has endorsed the crucial role exotic forestry will carry out in meeting New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emission targets in 2030 and 2050. 

But he says some groups, such as the Environmental Defence Society, have misunderstood the relative roles exotics, and a new policy of planting native trees, might play.

FOA President, Phil Taylor, points to the 380,000 new hectares of exotic plantations the Commission anticipates will need to be planted between now and 2035.

“These extra trees will be the support act for the Commission’s targets of massive reductions of the overall carbon dioxide emissions from industry and transport.  This decarbonisation has to be the thrust of meeting New Zealand’s climate change mitigation obligations.”

“Anything else is delaying solving the problem.  Pines are great at buying time, but they don’t cut gross emissions themselves.”

“The trees the Commission has identified are fast growing and so they will sequester carbon at a rapid rate, which the Commission acknowledges.  In a rotation forest they maintain that high carbon bank.  They also provide an average export return to the landowner for the timber which is above that from farming.”

“This modest area of land the Commission anticipates being planted should put an end to the alarmist and bogus claims, circulating over the past year, about half of New Zealand’s hill country being swallowed up by blanket forestry.  That was never going to happen.”

“In light of the Climate Commission’s prediction clarifying this, we’d expect to see the government dropping its proposed restrictions on conversion of farmland to forestry.”

“There is no takeover. Landowners should make their own decisions about farming or forestry, and what species of trees they want to plant.”

Phil Taylor says if the government sets out to have 300,000 hectares of native trees planted by 2035, it will suit highly erodible and remote land which might be better not to harvest.

“But the carbon sequestration rate of native trees is not ‘superior’ as the EDS is saying.  Pines and eucalypts lock up carbon much quicker.  That is a well-established fact.”

“There will be very little carbon locked up in these slow growing indigenous trees, even by the New Zealand zero-carbon deadline of 2050.”

“They are very much an investment for subsequent generations.  By the end of the century there will be a substantial carbon bank in these native trees, and perhaps some timber available from them by that time.”

“Planting and protecting indigenous trees is a labour-intensive process, and so the government will be providing plenty of welcome jobs in weed clearance and pest culling in remote areas to ensure the new plantings survive.”

“There will also need to be work helping those indigenous trees cope with climate change.  Some trees, such as nikau, pukatea and ribbonwood don’t tolerate droughts well.”

Phil Taylor says in the short term the plantation forest industry will be available if the Commission’s formula doesn’t meet its targets over the next five to ten years.

“Governments around the world have most often failed to meet climate change targets.  If, for instance, the Manipouri electricity doesn’t become available for the national grid, then there might be a need for a large volume of reasonably rapid carbon lock up.”

“Exotic trees can deliver on this, and that is without the cost of reverting to buying expensive carbon credits from overseas, or asking the taxpayer to make up the difference.”

Phil Taylor says FOA looks forward to making these points at the upcoming consultation on the recommendations.

“The Climate Change Commission has done an excellent job of informing our sector of their thinking leading up to their recommendations in the weekend.  I’m sure they will be listening carefully to our response.”

“We’ve noted that the Commission acknowledges the role plantation forests will be playing in the bioeconomy in the transition to a post fossil fuel future and the carbon locked up in timber construction.”

“But we’re also going to tell them that they need to take into account the environmental benefits of plantation forestry, such as recreation, soil stability and clean water.  Plus of course, substantial regional employment and regular income throughout the growth cycle and at harvest time”.


Phil Taylor

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