04 June, 2007

THE AGE: Forestry groups back report

Philip Hopkins
The Age, Business Section, June 4, 2007

Forestry bodies have welcomed the recognition by the Prime Minister's emissions trading task group of forestry's role as a weapon against the threat of climate change.

A3P, the National Association of Forest Industries and TPA said they were pleased that the task group acknowledged timber's role as a carbon offset and as a storer of carbon through timber products.

The Kyoto Protocol assumes that all carbon within a tree is emitted on harvest, but the task group states that carbon remains locked in the timber until it decays.

A3P is the body for the plantation pine and paper industry, while NAFI represents the native forest sector and TPA plantation hardwood companies.

A3P chief executive Neil Fisher said objections to the inclusion of plantations in abatement schemes usually centred on water use. However, revegetation had a negligible impact on water availability, he said.

Also, accounting was not as difficult as claimed. The NSW greenhouse gas abatement scheme had successfully acknowledged the carbon sequestered in new forests.

Mr Fisher said the report also recognised the potential impact on emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries, such as the pulp and paper sector.

He welcomed two other recommendations:

  • The proposed allocation of permits over five years to offset emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries.
  • Any emissions trading scheme must be broad in scope and capture as much of the economy as possible.
NAFI's chief executive, Catherine Murphy, said she was particularly pleased that the task group recognised that Australia could lead the world in accounting carbon in harvested wood products. This fact was not recognised in the Kyoto Protocol.

"In fact, if half of Australia's new homes were built predominantly with wood products, over 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved," Ms Murphy said.

TPA's chief executive, Allan Hansard, said the industry was ready to move forward in trading carbon offsets.

"Tree plantations are sequestering over 20 million tonnes of CO2 each year," he said.

A working group was co-operating with government on an industry-based carbon certification scheme.

"Carbon credits must also be tradeable and have a guaranteed life," Mr Hansard said.

The task group says a national emissions trading scheme could be up and running in Australia by 2011.



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