Urgent action needed to limit spread of carbon forestry and save sheep and cattle lands, farmers say
Farmers are encouraged by a change in the government’s stance on carbon cultivation, but say urgent action is needed to address the scale and pace of sheep and cattle farm conversions.
Beef and Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor said a discussion paper released by the Environment Department last week said changing the Emissions Trading System (ETS) rules for slowing conversions could happen by the end of next year, but it wasn’t. quite fast.
The document indicates that an increase in the price of the ETS within current parameters could lead to more exotic forestry, rather than a reduction in gross emissions in the long run and recognizes that farm conversions are likely to remain permanently in forestry, causing delays in reducing gross emissions.
He also says that 100 years from now, land converted to carbon farming will lose money and leave behind unsaleable land covered in aging pine.
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McIvor said Beef and Lamb welcomed the recognition that emissions must be reduced rather than offset, but wanted to see a limit to the amount of forest carbon offsets urgently.
“New Zealand is the only country with a regulatory emissions trading system that currently allows forest carbon offsets at 100% carbon.
The beef and lamb would suggest policy options as part of the process, he said.
Forest plantations last year had far exceeded the 25,000 hectares recommended as a sustainable amount by the climate change commission, and as the price of carbon continued to rise rapidly, that would only increase, McIvor said.
The necessary carbon storage could be achieved with the integration of trees into sheep and cattle farms rather than the wholesale conversion of farms to carbon forestry, which has had significant effects on rural communities and the economy. , did he declare.
50 Shades of Green farm lobby spokesperson Andy Scott said the change in tone was encouraging.
The group wanted an urgent planting restriction to avoid decimating the sheep and cattle sector and any resulting loss of export earnings, and to ensure that emission reductions do not threaten food production, Scott said. .
50 Shades of Green also wanted the way agriculture emissions were counted to change and argued that the current metric, GWP100, was not appropriate for measuring the warming effect of methane. Instead, he measured the volume, she said.
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended using GWP as a tool to calculate the different warming behaviors of short-lived gases, such as methane.
“Likewise, we encourage a decision to rely all on agricultural sequestration that can be counted, accompanied by urgent funding for research into the contribution of native sequestration,” Scott said.
Silver Fern Farms also encouraged investment in how “nature-positive” farming techniques could be supported and scaled up quickly. But said he was concerned about the government’s inability to say how it would increase its investment in methane reduction and prepare for future emissions pricing.
Managing Director Simon Limmer said the lack of detail and ambition to invest in research and technology was a lost opportunity.
Making the investment now would allow farmers and the government to develop leading-edge sustainable farming practices by 2030, Limmer said.
The reduction in the conversion rate of farms must be accelerated given the rapidly increasing carbon price, he said.
But Forest Owners’ Association president Phil Taylor said the new forests would cover less than 4% of sheep and cattle land.
To meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, another 25,000 ha of planting per year was needed for the next 15 years, Taylor said.
The consultation document showed that even short-term greenhouse gas reduction targets were not going to be met, he said.
“Already the nursery stock is short, and part of the plantation will also be needed in the calculations to offset emissions of methane and nitrous oxide on the farm.”
Sean Weaver, chief executive of social enterprise Ekos, which has funded sustainability projects, said carbon cultivation is a vital tool for climate change and government is scary focusing on the area most at risk.
Ekos cultivated native forests and, when economically necessary, used exotic woodlots to finance native forests, which might otherwise be commercially viable. When using exotic species, Ekos has gradually converted the exotic forest to native forest through systematic small-scale harvest and replacement over several decades.
The same technique could be used for any permanent pine logging, he said.
“Then in the long run, native woods can be managed sustainably to create a permanent source of income,” Weaver said.
Carbon farming was a tool to help finance reforestation at little or no cost to the taxpayer, he said.