It is now widely recognised that current climate policy settings are incentivising land-use change from sheep and beef farms into forestry – fueled by an ETS that does little to achieve necessary reductions in long-lived GHG emissions, says B+LNZ General Manager, Policy and Advocacy Dave Harrison.
“Urgent policy changes are needed to address the scale, pace, and style of carbon forestry,” he says.
“We welcome the consultation released today, but our priority remains the need for the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to be fundamentally reformed.”
New Zealand is the only country that allows fossil fuel emitters to offset 100 per cent of their emissions through the ETS, and as the price of carbon rises, there has been a rush to offset rather than reduce emissions.
Harrison says B+LNZ is supportive of the integration of trees within farms, which could go a long way to meeting New Zealand’s climate change commitments, but current policy settings are leading to a level of afforestation in excess of any short-term, transitional needs.
More concerningly, they do not encourage a reduction in gross emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases, as highlighted in today’s report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
“Our primary concern is the sale and conversion of whole farms into forestry. We welcome recent indications by the Government that there will be a review of the role of forestry within the ETS, but a fundamental reform will take a number of years,” says Harrison.
While B+LNZ supports today’s proposals to bring carbon-only forestry under the same rules as production forestry and subject to the same environmental and management controls, along with the improvements to fire risk management for carbon-only and production forestry, Harrison says they will not curb the pace of change.
“We are open to national or regional rules that seek to limit the amount of permanent and production forestry by taking into account the social, economic and environmental impacts of afforestation.”
“This could mean those wanting to establish exotic trees at certain scales or in certain locations would need to apply for additional resource consents. However, we need to step through what this could mean for our farmers carefully.”
In parallel with this consultation, B+LNZ is also calling for restrictions on exotic trees in the Permanent Forest Category of the ETS and hopes to be included in a working group to redesign the settings of the category.
“We recognise the interests of Iwi in utilising this category to plant exotics within their farm with the view to this transitioning to native trees. Our main concern is the purchase of whole sheep and beef farms into carbon-only farming,” he says.
“This type of land use produces no export revenue and there is also no guarantee plantings established today will transition to native vegetation in the future.”
Harrison reiterated that B+LNZ is not anti-forestry and sees an important role for appropriately managed trees within farms and production forests, but it must be managed in the right way.
“Let’s get more trees in the ground in a considered way, put there by people who know their land best and let’s make planting natives more attractive.”
More information about the consultation on how forests are managed through the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) can be found on MPI's website.
For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s James Ford on 027 235 9806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Update 1 December 2022: B+LNZ has published its joint submission with Federated Farmers – for more information see this story on our website.