Reforestation benefits climate and economy: PCE report

Hill country farmers, including iwi, stand to win if the Government acts on the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recommendation to restore a million hectares of native forest, Forest & Bird says.

In today’s report on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, Dr Wright says allowing a million hectares of marginal farmland to revert to bush would store enough carbon over 50 years to offset 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from farming.

“The PCE’s report is an important signal to the Government to rethink existing offsetting initiatives, such as the ETS and the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative” says Forest & Bird’s Climate Advocate, Adelia Hallett.

“Agricultural emissions are New Zealand’s biggest climate headache, responsible for nearly half the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but so far the Government has considered them too difficult, too expensive, and too politically sensitive to target,” Ms Hallett says.

“It’s important to see Dr Wright acknowledging the critical part our native forests play in protecting us from climate change. Our existing native forests store the equivalent of 75 years of carbon emissions.

“Restoring native forests will have other environmental benefits too, including more habitat for our native species, improved water quality because of less pollution from farms, and less erosion,” Ms Hallett says.

“The impacts on farm productivity are likely to be negligible, as farmers report that the costs of grazing marginal country often outweigh the profits, and native forest restoration potentially opens other business opportunities, such as tourism and honey farming.”

In her report, the PCE recommends a number of measures, including:

  • restoring native forests on marginal farmland.
  • bringing the use of nitrogen fertilisers, and emissions from some large farming operations, into the Emissions Trading Scheme as a way to start pricing agricultural emissions.
  • a return to a localised farm advisory service to help farmers cut emissions through improved farm management. 

“New Zealand has committed to reducing our carbon emissions to 11% below 1990 levels by 2030, but we are on track to exceed 1990 levels by 96%. The Government’s current strategy is to buy our way out of our carbon debt, to the tune of $36 billion.

“Dr Wright’s recommendations make excellent economic and environmental sense, and we expect the Ministers of Climate Change and Primary Industries will be very interested in them.”