23 Feb 2015

Greenhouse gas emissions claims rejected

4:23 pm on 23 February 2015

The Government has rejected forest owners' claims that New Zealand is going to miss its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The Forest Owners Association said it was clear that New Zealand was going to fall short of its 2020 emissions reduction target by a country mile and the longer term goal of halving emissions by 2050 was also out of reach.

It wants the Government to call an urgent meeting of primary sector and Maori leaders to discuss the blow-out.

The association's chief executive David Rhodes said that was going to happen because new forestry plantings would fall well below the level needed to generate the emission credits required to meet the targets.

"We're down to around 3000 hectares a year. To put that in context, the generally accepted figure is more around 20,000 hectares of new planting is what you need. In the past we've had up 100,000 hectares. It ebbs and flows, but certainly from a carbon [credits] point of view, 3000 hectares is not going to cut it."

However in a written response, Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser said the Forest Owners Association was wrong when it said New Zealand would miss its 2020 emissions target.

The country was on track to meet the target through a mix of existing forestry plantings and over-achieving the 2008-2012 first commitment period target under the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr Groser said that gave New Zealand time to consider how it would meet its post-2020 commitments and the role forestry would play in that.

He acknowledged the decline in new plantings but said one of the causes of that, the low carbon price in the emissions trading scheme, was improving.

The price had risen to $5-6 a unit, and a stronger carbon price, along with a new Afforestation Grants Scheme, was going to provide more incentive for planting.

David Rhodes said until that happened, foresty would be part of the problem, and not the solution as was intended.

"It's long been held as one of the ways we can meet our commitments and that has been the case, but for some time we've been saying yes, but please be aware that we've got a lot of forestry here that has been planted back in the early 1990s and when that comes to harvest, then you will have a temporary release of carbon, so we will have to account for that," he said.

"So what we have been saying is to avoid that increase in emissions, we need to get new planting going so it can off-set that. Now that message hasn't really been picked up, so now what we are going to see is that forestry is going to become part of the emissions problem, at least for a while, anyway."