10 December 2010
The Green Party and a NZ Youth Delegation have been criticised by the Forest Owners Association for undermining New Zealand’s negotiating position at the United Nations climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico.
“Greens leader Russel Norman and the Youth Delegation have used an international forum to accuse New Zealand of being climate change cheats,” says Forest Owners chief executive David Rhodes who has just returned from the talks.
“We have two senior ministers who are trying to make progress on a second round of commitments under Kyoto. They are doing their level best to ensure that we get rules that make sense for New Zealand,” he says.
“This will not be achieved if their hard-won credibility is undermined by politically-based criticism by fellow New Zealanders. The last thing we want are artificial constraints imposed for no environmental benefit, as has happened in the past.”
Mr Rhodes says the forest industry has nothing to hide. It is proud of its environmental performance and has no need or wish for climate change rules to be gamed on its behalf.
The Youth Delegation, which Mr Norman described in a blog posting as “brilliantly informed”, has accused New Zealand of trying to cheat its way out of its Kyoto obligations. It also said countries such as New Zealand wanted to evade accounting for up to one billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the destruction of native forests and peatlands.
For his part, Mr Norman has accused the NZ negotiators of supporting moves that would allow it and other rich nations to ramp up logging without accounting for the greenhouse gases that result.
At stake are complex rules covering the carbon status of forests. Deforestation globally is a major cause of rising greenhouse gas levels, whereas new and better managed forests have the potential to remove carbon dioxide from the air and to lock it up in wood and other plant material.
Mr Rhodes says that in order to get a better handle on what’s happening in pre-1990 forests, it has been proposed in Cancun that developed countries should have to report and account for their carbon flows in these forests. But getting agreement on how precisely this should be done has proved to be a sticking point.
“Environmental activists wanted detailed carbon accounting every five years – with deforestation penalised and afforestation rewarded,” he says.
“But what most developed countries including New Zealand wanted was for accounting to be done on an ongoing basis, with penalties and rewards occurring only if there were changes to the long-run carbon status of their forests.”
Applying a five-yearly audit system to permanent forests with life cycles ranging from 28 to 50 years would result in wild fluctuations in New Zealand’s carbon ledgers. Yet, over the long-run their emissions profiles would be unchanged.
From 2012 to 2022 New Zealand’s emissions will climb, as many forests will reach maturity and be harvested in that period. Then from 2023 to 2035, New Zealand will roar into surplus as the replanted forests grow again – a cycle that will be repeated into the future.
“New Zealand and other countries with sustainable forest industries want to avoid this yo-yo effect. Applying penalties and rewards to a natural cycle of harvest and renewal makes no sense. We of course accept that penalties should apply where there is permanent deforestation.
“Accusing our government of wanting to cheat the system and being secret supporters of native forest destruction is simply absurd. And doing so in an international forum is unhelpful.”
Link to Russel Norman comments
Link to NZ Youth Delegation comments
A graph showing the carbon emission and sequestration cycles for pre-1990 New Zealand forests is available on request.
For more information, please contact David Rhodes, Tel 027 495 5525