The first expressions of support for a shift in government thinking about carbon farming, radiata pine and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) came not from the Greens but from ACT.
From 2023, under current rules, a new permanent forest category of the ETS would allow both exotic and indigenous forests to be registered in the scheme and earn New Zealand Units (NZU).
The government is now proposing to exclude exotic species – such as pinus radiata – from the permanent forest category.
Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Climate Change Minister James Shaw today released a public discussion document that seeks feedback on ideas for better forest management.
Another government press release today announces the handout of government funding for 27 arts, culture and heritage projects across the Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Manawatū regions.
The amount being given was not specified, but Arts Minister Carmel Sepuloni did say the $374 million COVID recovery package for the sector and the $120 million support announced recently in response to Omicron “underlines the social, economic and cultural value of the sector”.
In the only other press release, Finance Minister Grant Robertson yet again announced that the Crown’s accounts continue to reflect the resilience of the economy and the Government’s balanced financial management and puts the country in a strong position to respond to Omicron.
He was cheered by the Crown Accounts for the seven months to the end of January.
But the most significant news of the day from the Beehive was that a new proposal to better manage carbon farming could result in future permanent plantings of exotic forests like radiata pine being excluded from the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Afforestation is a key component of New Zealand’s strategy to meet its climate change targets by offsetting carbon emissions, providing a source of bioenergy, and the replacement of high carbon materials.
But the increasing New Zealand Unit (NZU) price is driving higher rates of afforestation, particularly fast-growing permanent exotic forests. This is raising concerns among some industry groups and community organisations about the risk of permanent exotic forests displacing pastoral farming, and production and indigenous forests.
To manage these risks, the Government is consulting on:
- whether to prevent exotic forests from registering in the permanent post-1989 category in the NZ ETS. This to ensure any legislative changes can be passed by Parliament before this category commences on 1 January 2023.
- a proposal to adjust how the new carbon accounting method in the NZ ETS (averaging accounting) applies to remote and marginal land for harvesting. This is to reflect the later harvest age and extra carbon stored in some forests on remote and marginal to harvest land.
- opportunities for improving incentives for indigenous afforestation, following on from the Emissions Reduction Plan consultation late last year.
Information on these topics is contained in a discussion document, Managing exotic afforestation incentives: Proposals to change forestry settings in the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme, which was released today by Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Climate Change Minister James Shaw.
“Climate change is a challenge we cannot postpone. The government wants to encourage afforestation to help meet our climate change targets, offset carbon emissions, and also help farmers, landowners and investors diversify their income streams,” said Stuart Nash.
“We want to encourage the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason,” said Nash.
“We intend to balance the need for afforestation with wider needs of local communities, regional economies, and the environment.”
The NZU price which has driven increased plantings of exotic has more than doubled over the past year, from around $35 in late 2020 to over $80 in February 2022.
But the government says permanent exotic forests such as radiata pine have potential environmental and ecological risks, such as pests, fire, damaged habitats for native species, biodiversity threats, and a relatively short lifespan compared to well-managed mixed indigenous forests.
Later this year, it will also consult on proposals which could give local councils more powers to decide under the Resource Management Act where exotic forests are planted in their areas.
James Shaw noted Climate Change Commission advice that we need to increase both indigenous and exotic tree planting to meet our emissions targets – but it also warned of the need to reduce our overall reliance on forestry offsets, and better manage the impacts of afforestation.
“For example, a proliferation of permanent exotic forestry could result in lower long-term carbon prices and potentially limit investment in low-carbon technologies. At the same time, an increase in native forestry will require additional management efforts to eliminate pests that feed on native trees,” Shaw said.
The consultation is an opportunity for anyone with an interest in the future of forestry to have their say.
Find out more at: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/consultations/managing-exotic-afforestation-incentives
ACT ‘s rural spokesman, Mark Cameron, said the discussion document is a welcome and overdue opening to the concerns of Rural New Zealand.
“For too long, rural New Zealand has not been listened to, in fact we’ve been treated with contempt by the urban political left. We’ve said for years that carbon farming is destroying communities and creating environmental problems for years to come.”
ACT says environmental policy is supposed to prevent harm to the environment, not subsidise it.
Cameron urged the Government to go further by:
- Properly rewarding farmers for the sequestration that already occurs on their farms.
- Ensuring the Overseas Investment Act treats carbon farming and other land uses on a level playing field. ACT favours foreign investment and says New Zealand needs investment capital, but creating a special exemption for foreign investors who want to cover New Zealand in pine trees was the wrong place to start.
- Letting New Zealanders redeem carbon credits from around the world, effectively allowing New Zealanders to pay people to plant trees anywhere in the world to offset their emissions, instead of just here.
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New rules proposed for carbon farming of exotic forests in future
A new proposal to better manage carbon farming could see future permanent plantings of exotic forests like radiata pine excluded from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
2 thoughts on “ACT beats the Greens to support exclusion of radiata pine from ETS subsidies – but it wants the govt to go further”
We are al going to be issued with Carbon Credit Ration Books Soon?? Ask Jimmy Shaw?? Just like my days in the war days in the UK, 1939-45!! from Trevor.. rations for food!