New Zealand could be carbon-neutral in 60 years by planting radiata pine on 2.4 million hectares, says forestry professor, claims country's emissions trading scheme is 'on its last legs' resulting in destruction of tree seedlings grown to support scheme

, January 10, 2014 () – Unwanted tree seedlings are being killed with herbicide as New Zealand's attempts to mitigate the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change falter, a leading academic said Friday.

University of Canterbury forestry expert Professor Euan Mason said a large number of seedlings were grown by the university's School of Forestry in response to the country's emissions trading scheme (ETS), but many were destroyed after being left unsold during the 2013 planting season.

"These 2-year-old seedlings were grown in anticipation of a well-functioning emissions trading scheme," Mason said in a statement.

However, the scheme, which was supposed to do "the heavy lifting in New Zealand's climate policy," was "on its last legs," he said.

With a unique emissions profile, New Zealand could offer the world valuable solutions for developing nations if only the country would accept the opportunity, he said.

"Surprisingly, New Zealand could be completely greenhouse gas neutral between 60 and 100 years by planting radiata pine on approximately 2.4 million hectares, which is 9 percent of our land area, or more than doubling our current plantation area of our marginal lands," said Mason.

The emissions trading scheme was lacking effectiveness and credibility, partly because of low credit prices, and partly because of a piecemeal approach to implementing it, including the total exclusion of the agricultural sector.

"By excluding agriculture from our emissions trading scheme, we give a free ride to the very sector that emits more greenhouse gas than any other single sector in the country," he said.

New Zealand has so far failed to respond adequately to climate change and its emissions are among the fastest rising in the world.

The New Zealand government has come in for international condemnation for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol at the end of 2012, gutting the ETS and removing support for sustainable energy technologies.

(c) 2014 Xinhua News Agency

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