March 12, 2007
Victoria's forest industry will play a big role in the State Government's climate change and greenhouse policy, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Joe Helper.
Mr Helper said emissions trading was perhaps the biggest opportunity for forestry. '
'Placing a value on carbon may open up new opportunities for forest industries," he said.
Mr Helper said forestry featured strongly in the Department of Primary Industry's action agenda on climate change, drawn up last year.
"While it may be an inconvenient truth for some, the forest and wood products sector has an important role to play," he said.
Mr Helper was giving the opening address to a seminar on forestry's role in combating global warming. The seminar was sponsored by Australian Paper and the Victorian Association of Forest Industries.
Mr Helper said strategies in the department's action agenda included:
- A profitable and credible forestry carbon sink industry.
- Greater recognition of the value of forest products over man-made or fabricated alternatives.
- Potential of carbon-neutral bio-energy from sustainable forest management.
- Engaging with Victoria's timber producers to help them mitigate climate risks.
Forests provided other environmental services, such as habitat maintenance, ameliorating salinity and providing long-term stability for landscapes.
"And let us not forget that growing, harvesting and processing wood provides one of the most ecologically sustainable forms of employment," he said.
"As a land use option, growing trees for timber in the right landscapes is one of the more economically productive options."
However, Mr Helper said awareness of all this in the broader community was not what it should be.
"Some of the relevant carbon accounting tools are also in need of attention," he said. Mr Helper said wood products such as furniture and construction stored carbon in the longer term, while newsprint and packaging, even though shorter term, may be recycled or remain inert in rubbish tips.
"All wood and wood products ultimately have the potential to be used as carbon-neutral fuel, which can effectively offset (greenhouse) emissions," he said.
Mr Helper said wood and wood products should gain greater recognition as a sustainable building material of choice.
"In this regard, I am aware that some building codes discriminate against the use of timber, particularly that from native forests.
"This is something we will continue to work together with industry to address, because Victoria has perhaps one of the most effective forest management systems in the world," he said.
Mr Helper said Victoria's reserve system was now one of the most extensive in the developed world. VicForests, the State Government's commercial forestry arm, had just received Australian Forestry Standard certification and was regularly audited by the state's Environment Protection Authority.