Tall trees

pine.gifSetting emissions targets means more than just making direct emissions cuts — it also means growing our carbon sinks. Climate change minister Nick Smith seems to want to ignore this, insisting (once more) in his interview with Kathryn Ryan this morning that because NZ’s emissions were now running 24% above 1990 levels, that a 40% target for 2020 would mean cutting emissions by 64%. That is, of course, nonsense, because it ignores the role played by our prolific forests. In a timely reminder of the carbon sink potential of forestry in NZ conditions, the Science Media Centre today released a paper by Associate Professor Euan Mason and senior lecturer Dr David Evison of the School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury. In their “Comment on forestry and climate change” [PDF here, available to HT readers by kind permission of the SMC] they say:

New forest planting is a very feasible and viable method to reduce New Zealand’s net emissions. New plantings will provide capacity for New Zealand to implement cost-effective reductions in industry and agricultural emissions, and possibly to develop new sequestration technologies.

They go on to look at ways of increasing the forestry sector’s contribution to emission mitigation (the very thing that Smith is ignoring):

With the right policy settings and with appropriate help for landowners, we could
markedly increase the GHG benefits of forestry by:

1. increasing the rate of new forest establishment;
2. increasing sequestration in existing forests; and
3. increasing the use of wood as a construction material

And here’s the kicker: they quote Piers MacLaren on the true potential of afforestation:

… if we consistently achieved a new planting rate of 50,000 ha/year, it would take the best part of a century before we established forest on all our eroding landscapes, and meanwhile we would have carbon credits to sell to others on the international market.

That’s the real challenge, the true potential that Smith and the government are missing. I can only speculate that the forestry industry doesn’t vote National.

In the meantime, I urge anyone who wants the facts about forest carbon sequestration in NZ and its potential for the future (as well as a good discussion of the policy challenges) to read this paper.


Knock on wood

pine.gif Rumblings about the forestry industry’s disappointment with the “suspension” of the ETS have not been slow to surface, but as I’m no expert on the business (though I do like trees) I asked well-known forestry consultant Piers Maclaren if he could provide Hot Topic’s readers with an overview of what’s going on. I must have asked nicely, because within hours he’d supplied an excellent – and forthright – article to post (see above). For those who don’t know Piers, here’s a brief (self-penned) CV:

Piers Maclaren remembers the time he first became aware of the issue of global warming: it was at a student meeting in 1970. Over the years, he came to realise how intractable this problem was, but it wasn’t until 1989 that he had the opportunity – as a scientist working at the Forest Research Institute, Rotorua – to actually work on it. He devised a way to calculate the nation’s carbon budget for forestry, and this yielded a figure that overwhelmed carbon from other sectors.

He has written over 100 scientific papers, attended numerous international meetings, and reviewed all four IPPC reports. He was science advisor to the Minister for the Environment (Hon Simon Upton) at the first Conference of the Parties in Berlin in 1995. He now works as an independent forestry consultant dealing with a wide range of issues, including climate change. He’s read – and strongly approved of – Gareth’s book on climate change “Hot Topic”.

In other words, he speaks with some authority.. 😉 His take on forestry and the ETS is essential reading.