Green groups and foresters join forces on climate change

19 Sep 2007

Major environmental and forest industry groups are calling for the government to adopt climate change policies that are fair, efficient and apply to all industries. This follows a decision to reaffirm the 1991 Forest Accord and to extend it to include climate change.

The organisations involved were the Ecologic Foundation, the Environment & Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO), Federated Mountain Clubs, Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, Sustainable Energy Forum, WWF New Zealand, NZ Farm Forestry Association, NZ Forest Owners Association and the Wood Processors Association.

"Forestry, environmental and outdoor recreation groups that signed the Accord are concerned at the effects of the government's climate change policy direction on forests and forestry," said ECO spokeswoman Cath Wallace.

"It is important that we urgently get policies that adhere to the polluter pays principle so that all emitters face the costs of the impact they have on the environment. Such policies need to be equitable across sectors and give due recognition to the role of forests."

NZFOA chief executive David Rhodes said the Accord partners wish to see greater appreciation of the role of indigenous and plantation forests in mitigating climate change. They also want to see greater efforts being made to protect and enhance forests and other carbon sink eco-systems.

"Forestry has an important role to play, both directly through carbon storage in both trees and wood products and indirectly through substituting for more carbon intensive processes and fossil fuel usage. The expansion of forests and use of forest products should be positively promoted for these reasons."

Ms Wallace said it was important for all sectors and all greenhouse gases to be included in the government's proposed emissions trading scheme.

"There has been some suggestion from the government that it is too hard to include agriculture at this stage. This is simply untrue — there are several ways livestock farmers can significantly reduce their nitrous oxide emissions at reasonable cost.

"They can also switch to crop growing, including for biofuels, or can offset their increased methane emissions by planting trees or buying emission credits."

The Forest Accord was a landmark document when it was signed in 1991, putting an end to years of hostility between conservationists and foresters.

Under its provisions, forest owners agreed not to clear native forests to establish plantations and to protect remnants of indigenous vegetation within their plantations. For their part, conservationists acknowledged the environmental benefits of sustainably managed plantation forests.

"The Accord partners have reaffirmed the Accord, which recognises the value of both indigenous and planted forests," said Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell.

"Now we want to build on this by advancing a number of principles and policy positions which we believe should guide climate change policy."

The key policy points are:

  • Carbon sequestration by forests should be utilised to help New Zealand's transition to a carbon neutral economy.
  • Wood is a renewable, reusable and recyclable resource that can play a significant role in the production of energy; and can be substituted for materials that cause greater greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Government policies must be consistent with the polluter pays principle — be broad-based, equitable, efficient and cover all greenhouse gases in all sectors;
  • They should have clear, early, time-bound targets that lead to net greenhouse gas emission reductions;
  • They should promote the retention and expansion of indigenous forests and the replanting and expansion of plantation forests and associated use of wood products to recognise their positive climate change benefits, and encourage the maintenance and enhancement of existing carbon reservoirs and carbon sinks;
  • They should avoid perverse outcomes such as the loss of indigenous forests or greenhouse reservoirs in other indigenous ecosystems; and should avoid net increases in green house gases;
  • Be consistent with customary rights and responsibilities of Maori; and with the Treaty of Waitangi;
  • Be non-partisan and politically durable; and
  • Recognise the contribution of the post-1990 forests to New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol Commitments.

For more information, contact Cath Wallace (ECO), Tel 021 891 994, David Rhodes (NZFOA) Tel 0274 955 525, Kevin Hackwell (F&B), Tel 04 385 7374 or Molly Melhuish (SEF), Tel 04 568 4873