31 March, 2009

Labor attacked on forest credits plan

Adam Morton
The Age (article), March 31, 2009

AUSTRALIAN-backed proposals to reward companies that stop deforestation in poor countries will derail efforts to tackle climate climate, according to a report.

Released overnight at United Nations climate talks in Germany by Greenpeace International, the report says plans to recognise forest protection in a global climate deal would trigger a collapse in the carbon permit price of up to 75 per cent.

It found issuing forestry credits for avoiding deforestation would also drastically reduce investment in clean energy technology, locking in "dirty" technologies such as coal-fired power.

The report comes as climate bureaucrats meeting in Bonn consider proposals on how to reduce the 20 per cent of annual global emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

In a speech in New York last week, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said she supported a global forestation credit program, suggesting it could cut the cost of reducing greenhouse emissions by up to 25 per cent. Greenpeace campaigner Paul Winn said the introduction of forest credits would encourage rich nations to buy cheap offsets overseas instead of reducing emissions from energy at home.

"(Senator) Wong seems to think Australia can keep polluting and push the burden of its emissions reduction responsibilities on to developing countries and their forests," he said.

He called for forests to be excluded from carbon markets, backing the creation of a fund to stop deforestation and protect biodiversity.

The Greenpeace report was released at the year's first major meeting of climate bureaucrats.

The Bonn meeting plans to lay the foundations for a post-2012 climate agreement, due to be signed in Denmark in December. Beyond forestry, it will consider emission reduction targets and how to find the billions of dollars needed to cut emissions in the developing world.

US climate envoy Todd Stern won sustained applause on the summit's first day after promising that the Obama Administration would take a markedly different approach to that of the Bush administration, which opposed the Kyoto Protocol.

"We want to make up for lost time," he said. Mr Stern said the US recognised its "unique responsibility … as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases".

He praised China, now the world's largest emitter, for its efforts to rein in carbon emissions, but said developing economies must join with rich nations to tackle climate change. "America itself cannot provide the solution, but there is no solution without America."

He urged delegates to adopt a long-range plan. Mr Obama has pledged to introduce policies that will return emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and cut them by 80 per cent by 2050.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer urged delegates to heed the call of the millions who switched off lights for Earth Hour.

29 March, 2009

Conservationists slam logging backflip

Carmel Egan
The Age (article), March 29, 2009

One of Victoria's most prized but controversial cool temperate rainforest sites is being clear felled by loggers after the State Government reneged on a deal to protect it.

Logging started in College Creek catchment in the Strzelecki Ranges six days after the Black Saturday fires devastated vast tracts on the hills that rise at the southern end of the Latrobe Valley.

College Creek was one of five environmentally significant core areas declared off limits to logging by then environment minister John Thwaites in 2006. It was to have been given to the people of Victoria. The core sites were to be linked by protected wildlife corridors joining the Strzeleckis' Tarra-Bulga National Park in the east to the Gunyah Gunyah Reserve, home of Australia's biggest tree by girth, at its western tip.

But last year Mr Thwaites' successor, Gavin Jennings, jettisoned the "cores and links" agreement and signed a new deal allowing Hancock Victorian Plantations to log College Creek and other areas that had been set aside.

Environmentalists have accused Mr Jennings of caving in to the logger, which has commercial contracts to supply timber to the Maryvale pulp and paper mill.

Now 1500 hectares within the "cores and links" will be clear felled, with the 350-hectare College Creek site the first to go.

Friends of Gippsland Bush secretary Susie Zent said the site was the most politically contentious forested area in the state. "We have fought so hard to have this area saved only to have it signed away in a secret deal made against all rainforest ecologists' advice."

College Creek is Crown Land over which Hancock holds a 60-year lease. With the lifting of the moratorium on logging, Hancock is now logging the site before it is replanted and returned to the stewardship of the state.

Unlike higher-profile state forests and national parks in the Alpine region, the Grampians and the Otways, the Strzelecki Ranges are a hodgepodge of native vegetation, remnant old growth forest, regrowth, reserves, blue gum and pine plantations, freehold and Crown land. Their chequered history of compromise and trade-off, cultivation and preservation, exploitation and sanctuary has been dictated for 60 years by the needs of the timber industry and Maryvale mill at Morwell.

Hancock is contracted to supply the mill and insists logging College Creek was necessary to meet its commitments. But community groups and environmentalists have condemned the logging and accuse the Government of caving in to Hancock.

The 2006 agreement negotiated between Mr Thwaites, Hancock, Australian Paper (then owner of Maryvale mill), Trust for Nature, three local councils and community groups expired in 2008 when the parties failed to reach consensus and the company withdrew from negotiations, saying commercial conditions had changed.

Mr Jennings said this meant the Government had to negotiate a new deal with Hancock from which other interest groups were excluded. Hancock chief executive Linda Sewell said the "cores and links" agreement was not legally binding and the company gave six months' notice of its intention to walk away if a consensus could not be reached.

Pulp wood and plantation legislation gives industry lease holders the right to remove native vegetation from Crown land.

According to Ms Sewell, College Creek is a plantation established by Australian Paper for forest production in the 1970s. However, rainforest botanist Stephen Mueck believes it regenerated to become much more than a plantation.

"There is still some surviving cool temperate rainforest and some threatened fauna," he said.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Anthony Amis, also involved in negotiations with Hancock, believes the company needed to log the cores and links because blue gum and shining gum plantations in the Strzeleckis have failed.

"Hancocks are logging under unsustainable contracts that can't possibly be met due to the failure of thousands of hectares of blue gum plantation," Mr Amis said.

Original article

25 March, 2009

LETTER: Trees? Oh, please

Lynn Good, Weegena, Tasmania
Letter to the Editor, The Age, 25 March 2009.

IT WAS not surprising that Alan Ashbarry's letter (24/3) denying Australian forests are being ravaged by logging came from the same Tasmania that hosts the most intensive native forest logging in the OECD.

Damage control down here consists mainly of reclassifying reality. A block of native forest that has been clear-felled, burnt, deep-ripped, herbicided, and resown with seeds of commercial eucalypts remains on the Tassie books as "native forest". A shining gum plantation is classified as "forest". As old-growth forest is steadily flattened, the consequent increase in the percentage of such forest listed as "reserved" is proudly trumpeted.

If you want a true picture of what goes on down here, look out the plane window. And weep.

Logging stopped in rich mammal site

Media Release, Wednesday 25th March 2009

This morning a group of 20 forest conservationists are preventing the clearfelling of one of the last stands of old growth forest in the upper Delegate River catchment in East Gippsland.

Members of the group have prevented six logging machines from working using a complicated series of tripod structures, cables and a tree platform.

“This particular old growth forest was recently surveyed by trained biologists and the result showed very high density of tree dwelling mammals”, said spokesperson for the group Carmel Roberts. “The DSE’s own policy states that areas containing high densities of tree dwelling mammals, must be protected. The DSE are saying they are unable to protect these species' habitat despite this prescription.”

“In 2006, Premier Brumby made an election promise to protect the “last significant stands of old growth”. These forests are the very the last refuges for our endangered wildlife.”

“Since the devastation caused by the bushfires, East Gippsland’s forests are now even more critical to the survival of Victoria’s native species than before. Rare native wildlife could have been made locally extinct in other areas due to the fire damage.”

“Old growth forest is critically important for the survival of these threatened species in Victoria. The logging industry can survive in plantations and regrowth, endangered species can’t.”

For comment:

  • Carmel Roberts - on site with trunk phone 03 9416 2129 - (dial tone) - 8384620 - on the hour.
  • Jill Redwood - 5154 0145

(The decision of DSE/VicForests to prioritise the placement of staff at protests is their decision. However we would hope they’d give precedence to keeping communities safe from fire if needed rather than to convenience a small number of logging operators. There are normally no more than three or four DSE/VicForests personnel allocated to protesters - police don’t fight fires).