Rachel Kleinman, November 8, 2006
Native forest logging in Victoria releases as much greenhouse pollution as putting 2.3 million new cars on the road each year, an environment group says.
The Wilderness Society yesterday renewed calls for the Bracks Government to restrict logging to plantations after the British Stern Review last week identified deforestation as a major cause of climate change.
Australian National University fellow James Watson, a Wilderness Society lobbyist, said Government figures showed that 8995 hectares of Victorian forest and woodland were logged in the past financial year. That amounted to 9.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of 2.3 million new cars, Dr Watson said.
But Environment Minister John Thwaites' spokesman said there were "vastly differing scientific opinions about the impact of logging".
The Government would release a report next year that evaluated logging in catchments against economic, social and environmental criteria, the spokesman said.
Dr Watson said recent Government initiatives to tackle climate change were welcome but were not enough. "They cannot be seen to be seriously addressing dangerous climate change without also stopping logging in old-growth forests and water catchments," he said.
Clearing trees releases back into the atmosphere carbon that has been stored, often for many centuries. Dr Watson said it took up to 150 years for new trees to absorb the carbon released through logging of old trees.
In February 2002, the Bracks' Government's Our Forests Our Future policy committed to a 31 per cent reduction in logging across the state's native forests. There is no date yet for a new Labor policy on logging.
Under a Bracks Government, logging in the Otways would end by 2008 and parts of Gippsland's Strzelecki Ranges were now protected, Mr Thwaites' spokesman said. "Victoria is on the right path to sustainably managing its forests," he said.
Former chief economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, in a report commissioned by the British Government, said emissions from deforestation were responsible for about 18 per cent of global greenhouse emissions — more than that of the global transport sector.
"Action to preserve the remaining areas of natural forest is needed urgently," Sir Nicholas said.
His report said that 8000 years ago 50 per cent of global land surface was covered by forest, compared with 30 per cent now.