“It is encouraging the Government has listened to us and other groups such as 50 Shades of Green and removed the OIA’s streamlined forestry test and announced consultation on excluding future permanent plantings of exotic forests from the ETS,” says B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor.
“However, the unbridled ability of fossil fuel emitters to continue planting trees on productive farmland without any limits remains the elephant in the room.
“There is still much work to be done to check the concerning speed and scale of land use change. We will not be satisfied until the Government imposes limits on fossil fuel emitters.”
The changes announced by the Government come on the back of research commissioned by B+LNZ that identified the alarming scale of food-producing sheep and beef farms being converted into carbon forestry and further work led by former MP and Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, which was co-funded by B+LNZ, Local Government New Zealand and councils.
“We are certainly not where we need to be yet,” says Mr McIvor.
“Dramatic land use change is being driven by fossil fuel emitters and speculators being incentivised to plant exotic carbon forestry on productive farmland countrywide without limitation. We will continue to strongly lobby the Government to also introduce planting limits on these entities.”
The Government’s consultation on proposed changes to the ETS seeks feedback to help it achieve better outcomes from its focus on afforestation.
These include excluding permanent planting of exotic forests like radiata pine from the ETS, adjusting how carbon accounting applies to forests on remote and marginal to harvest land and opportunities for improving incentives for native tree afforestation.
The discussion document notes that current incentives ‘could lead to a legacy of large areas of concentrated and permanent exotic forests’ which ‘will not provide a prosperous and sustainable footing for New Zealand in the long-term’.
“The proposals show the Government has acknowledged and accepted the Climate Change Commission’s advice around seriously questioning the dominant role of exotic forests in offsetting carbon rather than actually reducing our country’s emissions,” says Mr McIvor.
“However, the discussion document does not address all of the Commission’s recommendations for incentivising gross emissions reductions. B+LNZ’s position is that there needs to be limits in the ETS on the amount of offsetting fossil fuel emitters can do, in line with what happens in all other countries internationally.”
Other recent developments include changes to the OIA special forestry test. This will end the streamlined forestry test, introduced in 2018 for overseas investors planning to convert farms to forest.
This will mean that proposals by overseas investors to acquire land for conversion to production forestry will instead be considered under the Benefit to New Zealand test – a requirement for investments in sensitive land.
“That is another positive step in addressing the issue of wholesale farm conversion for carbon farming,” said Mr McIvor.
“Combined with changes to the ETS, it is one of a range of approaches that will be necessary to address this very real and growing threat to New Zealand’s productive sheep and beef land.”
For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Abigail Delaney at Abigail.Delaney@beeflambnz.com or 027 209 9891.