Gov't left behind by rising tide of Kyoto opinion

17 Apr 2007

The government and its officials are increasingly being left behind in the climate change debate says the NZ Forest Owners Association.

"A major international institution, four political parties, and now two major business groups, Business NZ and the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD), all want the polluter-pays principle to be applied as soon as possible," NZFOA president Peter Berg says.

Business NZ says current arrangements for forest sink credits, in which the value resides with government, must be abandoned immediately if the recent trend of deforestation is to be reversed and forest sinks are to contribute to meeting emission reduction targets at lowest long-term cost to New Zealand.

In its submissions to the government on climate change policies, the NZBCSD says its most important messages relating to climate change are the need for a price to be put on carbon, and that multi-party support is needed to develop stable long-term policies.

Both organisations support the full devolution of credits and liabilities within the forestry sector as a basic starting point.

"We believe that the best option is simple devolution, which avoids the government taking on the role of effectively setting the price for forestry credits. If the growers want cash then they will be able to sell the credits to the market," says the NZBCSD submission.

Mr Berg says that the NZ Institute for Economic Research report to Business NZ, the NZBCSD, along with the OECD, National, Act, the Greens and the Maori Party have all endorsed the forest industry view that carbon credits and liabilities should be conferred on those forest owners who want them.

"By requiring all land users to account for their carbon emissions from the start of 2008, and incorporating them in an emissions trading scheme as the council advises, will strongly influence land-use decisions. There will be no need for the government's proposed land-use change tax.

"If forest owners are paid for the carbon their trees sequester and farmers who wish to intensify by moving to dairy are required to offset any increases in greenhouse gas emissions, there will undoubtedly be a big upswing in the planting of trees."

He says the government needs to give serious consideration to the growing consensus of informed opinion that its climate change policies are too timid in the way they deal with major emitters and are unnecessarily punitive in their dealings with the one industry — forestry — which can readily address the black hole in the country's Kyoto accounts.

"The government also needs to take heed of the anomalies highlighted by the NZ Institute for Economic Research report to Business NZ about the treatment of forestry and forest products under the Kyoto Protocol," Mr Berg says.

These unfair rules are evidence of undue haste when the government ratified the protocol. He also says officials and government lacked rigour when developing the country's climate change policies.

"While the protocol rules will eventually need to be renegotiated for the second commitment period (post 2012), New Zealand's internal policy options can be reformulated immediately so they are fair to all New Zealanders."

For more information, please contact Peter Berg, Tel 09 309 5049 or 021 421 291