New carbon markets could speed forest destruction

compound interest or self-interestBesides the new changes to the Tax Act, proposed carbon markets would further encourage forest destruction. The logging interests are trying to stitch it all up. This sounds arse-about but read on.

“Native forests, the less efficient resource for forestry industry competitiveness, are tagged for wood production with lost opportunities for the job they do best – carbon storage. Whereas plantations, the less efficient and less reliable resource for carbon storage, are tagged for carbon storage with lost opportunities for the job they do best – wood supply”. Dr Judith Ajani ANU economist

This means forests are best at storing much more carbon than plantations – plantations are best at making much more wood than native forests but store less carbon. However, the carbon market will profit plantation owners more if they leave their trees standing, while forests will be more profitable for chopping down. Why? Forests are too difficult to measure, so the government says, and Kyoto doesn’t recognise logging forests as an emission (!).

The research by ANU Forest Economist Dr Judith Ajani and Mathematician Dr Peter Wood was presented in their joint submission to the Commonwealth Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The submission says that in a plantation, logs account for just half of the carbon, so even at low carbon prices of $10 per tonne, hardwood plantation owners are likely to make more profit growing trees to store carbon than cutting them down for timber.

This would devastate wood processing across Australia. Plantations supply 80% of Australia’s wood and provide most timber jobs. Large areas of maturing plantations are also set to feed Australia’s hardwood chip export markets.

If logging shifts from plantations back to native forests, greenhouse emissions will increase. This is because native forests are three times more carbon dense than plantations and the proportion of useable wood is lower.

The researchers recommend that plantations be excluded from the emissions trading scheme and call on the Government to undertake an urgent inquiry into the value of native vegetation in climate change mitigation following the recently released report by ANU scientists.

ANU media release 3.9.08/ Jill/Green Carbon: The Role of Natural Forests in Carbon Storage


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