Beef + Lamb New Zealand disappointed about emissions trading reform legislation

The emissions trading reform legislation passed yesterday (16 June) will not lead to a reduction in emissions, but simply lead to fossil fuel emitters offsetting their pollution by planting more trees, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Wednesday, 17 June 2020

“Put simply, the politicians didn’t listen and this legislation will not achieve the outcome New Zealand is after,” says Andrew Morrison, chairman of B+LNZ. 

“It incentivises productive farmland being converted to pines planted not for wood but for carbon credits.  

“B+LNZ has been asking for a clear mechanism in law that allows the government to place a limit on the use of forestry offsets, but the Government has repeatedly ignored this request.   

“Planting a tree does not make carbon emissions go away. Exotic pines absorb carbon for around 17 years. If carbon emissions don’t change, the same amount needs to be planted to offset for the next 17 years. This increases exponentially, and sucks towns, schools and communities into a ‘green hole’.

“Some 70,000 hectares of productive sheep and beef land has been, or is in the process of being, converted to forestry since 2019, and carbon-related investment has been a major driver for this.  As the carbon price rises, as a result of this legislation, this conversion is likely to increase.

“This concern is shared by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, which last year recommended halting the use of forestry to offset fossil fuel emissions.

“Large-scale exotic afforestation will not address climate change issues.  Allowing fossil fuel emitters unlimited ability to offset their pollution by planting trees – or ‘planting pollution on farms’ – allows the fossil fuel industry a get-out-of-jail-free card, while the pastoral industry is asked to pick up the tab for other industries’ pollution. 

“While B+LNZ is supportive of the regeneration and restoration of indigenous habitats within farming landscapes, and the establishment of plantation forestry where appropriate, we’re concerned about the impact of policies that look set to distort markets and economically incentivise wholesale land use change from pastoral-based farming into exotic trees for the sole purpose of carbon farming.

“This is a slap in the face to sheep and beef farmers, who have already reduced their industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent since the 1990s, and have worked to protect and restore native habitats on their farms to the tune of 2.8 million hectares – the second largest holding of native forest and native biodiversity in the country.

“Converting productive farmland to pine plantations for carbon credits is only a short-term solution to make progress on climate change targets, but one that will lead to severe long-term negative impacts, at a community and national level.” 

Mr Morrison says research by BakerAg in 2019 found forestry supports far fewer jobs than the red meat sector, particularly in the regions. 

“The red meat sector employs 92,000 people in New Zealand and in some regions accounts for 12 percent of full-time employment. The regions can’t afford to lose these jobs, especially as the economy seeks to recover from COVID-19.

“With the red meat sector playing a major role in rebuilding the New Zealand economy, we simply can’t afford the impact of afforestation on everything from community networks through to our potential export earnings.”

ENDS

For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Senior Communications Advisor, Katie Jans on katie.jans@beeflambnz.com