6 October 2022

Biogenic methane issue ‘alarming’ but forestry helps

The Forest Owners Association says the highlighting of biogenic methane discharges, in a report just issued by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, is alarming and urgently calls for forest planting solutions to buy New Zealand time.

PCE, Simon Upton has just released a report, ‘How much forestry would be needed to offset warming from agricultural methane’.

Forest Owners President, Grant Dodson, says the report reveals that the warming effect of New Zealand’s livestock methane since 1850 is greater than the combined effect of both of New Zealand’s other major greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide - in the same period.

“It obviously cannot be swept under some metaphorical carpet as a short-lived gas, if we are to meet warming emissions reduction targets. Ongoing emissions create a new problem.”

“The report says if the Climate Change Commission’s demonstration path of reducing greenhouse gas emissions were to be met, including the highest methane target reduction of 47 percent from 2017, by 2050, then methane would be responsible for three-quarters of all our warming emissions by 2100.”

Grant Dodson says the forest industry has no issues with Simon Upton’s statement that other means of reducing methane emissions at source, such as vaccines or breeding low emitting stock, are vital first options.

“We agree with farmers that they need access to CRISPR technology for gene editing to lower methane emissions, just as we need it to solve the wilding conifer problem by selectively turning off seeding fertility in some minor species.”

“But we also agree with Simon Upton that until these other options are sufficiently advanced, taking carbon out of the atmosphere is something New Zealand does have the ability to do through tree planting.”

“A formula for planting plantations of pines at scale, is also essential.  The Parliamentary Environment Commissioner has correctly concluded that native trees are nice, but are too slow at building a carbon sink to be used for this purpose, even though there are other reasons for wanting an increase in native tree planting."

“He also dismisses riparian strips and woodlot areas as ‘minimal’.”

Simon Upton’s says new planting of 26,000 hectares a year through to 2050, would only manage to offset 10 percent of remaining methane emissions.

“This additional planting rate is above the new planting average for the past five years of about 22,000 hectares a year, so is quite achievable,” Grant Dodson says

“But if 60 percent of the remaining methane were to be offset, a planting rate of 77,000 hectares a year would be needed.”

“Trees are clearly the solution we need here and now, while technology evolves to tackle emissions at source.  But the problem remains that every time the tree solution is suggested we get voices campaigning against land use change.”

“New Zealand is rapidly running out of time to meet its emission targets for 2030 and those farmers opposed to change need to realise that the alternative is severe carbon-based tariffs for their products exported to key European markets in particular.”

“This is already written into trade agreements.  There is no hiding under the daggs for farming and the problem needs addressing.  Forestry is the only practical solution until technology catches up.”

“Forest growth in the long term is well proven to deliver an on average higher economic value than sheep and beef farming.  But in the short-term, we agree, care needs to be taken to maintain communities through the transition.”

“Fortunately, the just released Forest and Wood Processing Transformation Plan does have a focus on developing timber processing in just the regions which are economically struggling at present.”

“Not only can forestry offer a climate solution, but it offers a viable rural industry bringing proven employment and wealth to New Zealand.”

Grant Dodson

‘ph 027 654 6554

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Related Links

Careers in Forestry - training and career information

Commodity Levy - information relating to the levy

Planted Forests Portal - key statistics

IRIS - Incident Reporting Information System

Rare species - managing rare species in plantation forests

Log Transport Safety Council - to report incidents of log truck driver behaviour (good and bad)

FISC - The safety body for the forestry sector.