Flexible land use alliance welcomes positive movement on forestry offset scheme

Tuesday 17 June 2008, 5:24PM
By Flexible Land Use Alliance

The Flexible Land Use Alliance has welcomed moves by the Finance & Expenditure Select Committee to include provisions for a Forestry Offset Scheme in the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill and is urging Parliament as a whole to ensure it comes into force on 1 September 2008 along with the rest of the Bill.

``No other individual amendment to the forestry provisions of the Bill would do more to restore confidence in the one industry capable of sequestering carbon than getting a Forestry Offset Scheme underway from 1 September 2008,” a spokesman for the Flexible Land Use Alliance, Ross Green, said today.

``We have had strong support for a Forestry Offset Scheme from the National, Maori, United Future, New Zealand First and ACT parties, and support in principle from the Green Party. Now the Labour-led majority on the Select Committee has also acknowledged that such a scheme is common sense.’’

Under a Forestry Offset Scheme, pre-1990 forest owners harvesting their land would be able to meet their liabilities under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) either by replanting the exact same land – as is allowed for under the original draft of the Bill – or by planting an equivalent area of land elsewhere in New Zealand that is not currently in forestry. Either replanting strategy would have identical positive benefits for the atmosphere.

In its report back yesterday, the majority of the Select Committee included a new section 158A into the Bill which would give effect to a Forestry Offset Scheme. The new section is to come into force under section 2 when the Climate Change Minister recommends to the Governor-General that it should, if the Minister is satisfied that international agreements allow for it.

Mr Green said it was good that the procedure for a Forestry Offset Scheme was now to be included in the legislation and the Flexible Land Use Alliance would now be working to secure a parliamentary majority in favour of it coming into force on 1 September 2008 along with the rest of the Bill.

``Quite sensibly, the Select Committee has amended the purpose of the Bill to make clear that New Zealand should act in the best possible way to reduce our net carbon emissions irrespective of the detailed wording of current international agreements, which are themselves being renegotiated to allow for a Forestry Offset Scheme. It is obvious that a Forestry Offset Scheme will reduce New Zealand’s net carbon emissions by encouraging new planting, and that is what should guide Parliament as it considers the Bill through its second and third readings.

“A decision to introduce a Forestry Offset Scheme from 1 September 2008 would restore certainty and confidence to the forestry investment community.

``No single individual measure would be more powerful in getting planting underway on some of the 600,000 to 800,000 hectares of eroding hill country land that is currently not forested but for which forestry would be the best land use, especially when all environmental factors, including greenhouse gases, erosion and flood prevention, biodiversity and water quality are all factored in.’’

Mr Green also thanked the National Party for its support for the immediate implementation of a Forestry Offset Scheme and the Green Party for its acknowledgment at the Select Committee that a Forestry Offset Scheme is carbon neutral.

``Those who oppose the implementation of a Forestry Offset Scheme from 1 September 2008 need to justify why they support a slavish interpretation of the current wording of the Kyoto Protocol even though they acknowledge it would lead to environmentally sub-optimal policy that will cause New Zealand to have higher net carbon emissions than under a 1 September 2008 implementation date,’’ he said.