Government considering more incentives to encourage forest planting

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett

The government is looking at measures to encourage more forestry planting as it examines whether locally grown forests will be cheaper than buying foreign carbon credits to meet its climate change targets.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett told the Climate Change and Business Conference in Auckland that "how to get more trees in the ground" is a key part of its work on the supply of carbon credits into the country's emissions trading scheme in the 2020s.

Earlier this month, the government ratified the new global climate change deal agreed at the annual global conference in Paris last year, ahead of this year's global meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, in December.

The early ratification was motivated by a need to be at the negotiating table when rules are set for the treatment of plantation forestry and land use change, details of which will help determine how difficult it will be for New Zealand to meet its obligations under the Paris agreement.

New Zealand committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, using a combination of local emissions reductions, storing carbon in forests and buying international carbon credits.

"Forestry is so important because it's our most important source of domestic emission removals," Mrs Bennett says. "It can deliver at scale.

"If forestry is cheaper than buying international units, and we think it might be, there is a strong economic case for planting more trees. For example: investing in 10,000 hectares of forestry in 2018 will deliver 3.1 million tonnes of abatement over the 2020s, of the 235 million in total we need to reach our 2030 target.

"This could reduce the number of units we'll need to purchase internationally. A key focus of the ETS review is looking at how to promote more planting by ensuring there is a good price incentive to plant trees, but we are looking wider than this."

Among forestry policy changes under consideration were "how to make the New Zealand ETS more attractive to foresters. We know that forests (and foresters) come in all shapes and sizes, so it's a matter of understanding what mix of approaches fit best," she says.

"This includes looking at how forestry is accounted for in the New Zealand ETS, and how to reduce some of the administrative and compliance costs faced by both foresters and the government."

Plantation foresters have faced major policy uncertainty under the government's climate change policies. The price of carbon collapsed below 50c a tonne earlier this decade when major emitters were allowed to use low-quality and sometimes fraudulent credits bought from former Soviet blocs to offset local emissions.

Policy changes since then have seen the price of carbon rise, with the removal of a subsidy for major emitters earlier this year pushing New Zealand units of carbon to $18.80 per tonne from about $7 a year ago.

Foresters have said $15 a tonne is a trigger price for justifying plantation forestry investment but the industry is gun-shy, having ramped up planting in the past only to see policy changes undermine their decisions.

Mrs Bennett says "businesses need to know where policy is heading over the next five, 10 and 15 years so that they can have confidence when investing in new technologies."

"That's absolutely my commitment."

She says forestry also offers environmental and economic benefits beyond their impact on climate change and that forestry policy will include encouragement for permanent and native forestry, as well as what Environmental Defence Society head Gary Taylor called "pinus radiata syndrome."

Erosion control, biodiversity and water quality benefits are all available from forest planting, along with opportunities for regional and iwi economies, and carbon removals beyond 2030, Mrs Bennett says.

She hoped to have a National Policy Statement on climate change in place in the next 12 months or so.

But Mrs Bennett expressed scepticism about suggestions New Zealand should adopt a UK-style Committee on Climate Change, even as the government has begun efforts to gain cross-parliamentary support for key elements of long-term climate change policy.

(BusinessDesk)


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Excellent idea.

Grow more trees, cut them down and make homes and shelters for the new Aucklanders and homeless.

I feel a Nobel prize coming along.

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April 2017: Bennett mandates Wifi fitted to all new tree plantings.
December 2017: NZ public plants 575,000 trees per day in Auckland and surrounding region.
January 2018: Trees growing in popularity :headline NZ Herald
April 2018 : NZ the first country to meet Paris Accord targets early

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Will the batteries last Michael? Maybe we should plant potatoes or lemon trees?

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Why does Bennet counting up trees to make sure NZ has achieved its carbon credit capture quota sound sane in any world view?

I see there are large areas of gorse and tea-tree doing quite well on Maori land, did she count those too?

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Not sure she'll end up counting them, really.

This sounds like another of those things that's just too hard to measure.

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Why the racial slur and do you even know that it is Maori land? I see huge areas of farm land that used to be part of a sheep/cattle farm now reverting to gorse, thistles and tea-tree because cows can 't climb even relatively low slopes. And I'm also seeing plenty of areas of former forestry now having been converted to dairy.

Somewhere along the way we surely have to sort things out better than we are??

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Looks like I have been felled at the first hurdle.

How about getting the unemployed or homeless to count the trees?

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Great, lets line the pockets of the forestry sector just to let some other clown polite! Incentivise taking land out of sustainable low carbon protein production - demand for protein increasing so we'll end up with high carbon protein production filling the gap. Own goal stupidity.

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Politicians never learn from history.

A generation ago, the NZ government put in place incentives for planting trees. This caused planting to occur in all kinds of inappropriate places - steep slopes that were (are) uneconomic to harvest. Arguably, the incentives distorted forestry markets for many years - to the long-run detriment of he forest industry.

Similar government incentives aimed at pastoral farming caused an unrealistic - and not market driven - increase in stocking rates, to the point where many farmers suffered long-term.

Now a Minister wants to repeat history in the name of climate change? Yeah right.

Here's a tip for the Minister. Climate change is being accelerated by the release of too much carbon dioxide. The main causes of this are energy-related. Any "policy solutions" imposed by the government should thus be directed at increasing energy efficiency, especially in transport. I think the Minister will find that energy efficiency solutions are also the least cost to the NZ economy.

But I appreciate that approach is not as much fun for Ministers as more crony capitalism and subsidising another NZ industry that does not require any assistance.

So Bennett will join Joyce, Brownlee, Key, and others in the group of Ministers who will win the Kruschev trophy for trying to re-create the political system of the old USSR.

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What an insane and destructive suggestion. We are reaping the environmental legacies of excessive pinus radiate plantings across the country. They strip the soil of nutrients, they are an eyesore, they provide a pathetic return on a long term investment and they further reinforce our commodity emphasis as we repatriate our raw logs to foreign value chains. If we must plant trees the government should be subsidizing the preservation of our unique and varied native species.

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