New Zealand's climate change minister rejects claims that low carbon prices under Emissions Trading Scheme provide no barrier to switching forest land to other uses, says 42,700 hectares of replanting offsets 26,000 hectares harvested in 2008-2012

DUNEDIN, New Zealand , August 23, 2013 () – This week New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says the 26,000ha of plantation forest cut down in New Zealand between 2008 and 2012 has been more than offset by 42,700ha of replanting. He announced this week that New Zealand had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The ETS is widely seen as environmentally ineffectual because of carve-outs from the scheme and the collapse of international carbon prices. New Zealand's gross emissions are more than 20 per cent above 1990 levels, but it has been able to meet its Kyoto target with a bit to spare because of offsetting credits for the carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by forests planted since 1989 reported the NZ Herald.

But plantation forests will flip from being a net sink for CO2 to a net source of emissions when the "wall of wood" is harvested in the 2020s. In the meantime, forestry's net contribution depends in part on what happens to the size of the plantation forest estate. Groser strongly disputes claims of an upsurge in deforestation now that low carbon prices provide no barrier to landowners switching to another land use.

The Forest Owners Association has come out and rejected the Climate Change Minister's criticism of its stance on the Emissions Trading Scheme. The association, along with others in the forestry sector, has been a strong critic of the Government's ETS scheme.

It believes the price of carbon in the scheme is too low because the Government has allowed unrestricted use of cheap foreign credits. The association says that has removed the incentive for land owners and investors to plant trees for carbon storage and weakened its effectiveness as a means of reducing carbon emissions.

The minister, Tim Groser, has accused the forest owners of misleading the public with its criticisms. Association chief executive David Rhodes is puzzled by the Mr Groser's accusation that it is making misleading statements. "All we're doing is reporting on how the foresty sector is reacting to the signals that Government is setting," he says. "There's no misleading about it, we're simply stating facts."

Mr Rhodes says with the current prices the Government has set there is an increase in deforestation and there will be virtually no new planting. The forest industry wants the Government to limit the use of cheap carbon credit units in the ETS, as the European Union and Australia have done.

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