B+LNZ is calling on the Government to urgently clarify its plans to address this issue.
B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says last week’s decision came out without context. “In March this year the Government released consultation material that acknowledged significant concerns about carbon farming, specifically the amount of whole sheep and beef farms being sold into carbon-only farming where exotic trees are planted with no intention to harvest.
“While we didn’t think their proposal to change the permanent category in the ETS would fix the problem, at least it was a step in the right direction.
“Now all of a sudden the Government has done a u-turn and we have no indication of how they intend to address an issue they’ve previously acknowledged. The lack of information is deeply concerning.”
McIvor says it seems the Government may be concerned about issues raised during the consultation process. “There were legitimate concerns raised, including by B+LNZ, about missed opportunities under the proposals but we strongly believe these could have been addressed through an exemptions regime.
“In the meantime, however, the rate of whole-farm sales and conversions is out of control. We keep hearing of more and more whole-farm sales for the purposes of carbon farming and this is gutting rural communities and jeopardising the $12 billion income per year our sector generates for New Zealand.
“That’s why in our submission we supported the Government’s option of a proposed moratorium on the entrance of exotic forestry in the permanent category of the ETS to provide time to get the settings right.
“The decision is particularly baffling given that in the same week the Climate Change Commission clearly stated that the Government needs to urgently curtail forestry offsets as too much is already happening. The Commission said 60,000 hectares are likely to be planted in forestry this year alone – that’s far in excess of the 25,000 hectares a year they’ve said is sustainable and necessary.”
McIvor says the solution is likely to involve a range of responses but one key issue must be addressed.
“We urgently need limits on the number of forestry offsets available in the ETS to fossil fuel emitters, in line with what happens in other countries internationally. New Zealand is the only country to allow 100 percent offsetting.
“The irony is that fossil fuel emitters can offset all their emissions without making genuine emissions reductions, but farmers don’t currently get adequate recognition for the carbon-sequestering vegetation on their farms. This is something we’re fighting to get addressed under the He Waka Eke Noa emissions pricing system proposal, although it’s worth noting that farmers won’t get 100 percent of their sequestration recognised under that system either.”
McIvor says B+LNZ is urgently calling on the Government to make clear how it now intends to deal with the issue of wholesale conversion of sheep and beef farms for carbon farming.
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