ETS proposals show progress on carbon farming issue

The Government’s announcement of consultation on proposed changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in response to concerns about carbon farming has been welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand as an indication of genuine progress on the issue.

The Government is seeking feedback on proposals to achieve better outcomes from afforestation. This includes:

  • excluding exotic forests from the permanent post-1989 category in the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS)
  • whether to adjust how carbon accounting applies to forests on remote and marginal to harvest land
  • opportunities for improving incentives for indigenous afforestation.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the proposals are the result of sustained pressure from B+LNZ and other groups, including 50 Shades of Green.

District Councils and Local Government New Zealand have also been calling for urgent action.

The groups’ concerns are with the increased rate of planting of exotic carbon forestry on productive farmland across the country.

Mr McIvor said:

“This consultation comes on the back of research led by Lawrence Yule, which we co-funded and continue to be involved with, into policy responses to this issue. Until now, the Government has been reluctant to change the ETS. 

“The proposals show the Government has acknowledged and accepted the Climate Change Commission’s advice around seriously questioning the dominant role of exotic forests in offsetting carbon rather than actually reducing our country’s emissions.

”However, the discussion document doesn’t address all of the Commission’s recommendations for incentivising gross emissions reductions. B+LNZ’s position is that there needs to be limits in the ETS on the amount of offsetting fossil fuel emitters can do, in line with what happens in all other countries internationally.”

The consultation discussion document sets out three aspects for feedback, most notably around preventing exotic forests from being registered in the ‘permanent’ forest category in the ETS. It notes that current incentives “could lead to a legacy of large areas of concentrated and permanent exotic forests” which it does not consider appropriate – “this will not provide a prosperous and sustainable footing for New Zealand in the long-term.”

Mr McIvor notes this language is highly significant. The proposals follow an earlier announcement that the Government will end the streamlined forestry test for overseas investors planning to convert farms to forest.

“We’ve now seen two positive steps in the right direction. 

“We’ll keep working on this and pushing the Government to respond to the specific recommendations the Commission has made. There’s still work to be done and this is a priority for B+LNZ.”

B+LNZ will make a submission on behalf of its levy payers and is consulting with DairyNZ and Federated Farmers.

Consultation begins on Monday 14 March.

Information about the consultation is available on the MPI website.

Source: Beef + Lamb New Zealand

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