This section discusses forestry and climate change, the response of the New Zealand government to climate change and the green-house benefits of using wood.
Rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are recognised as being associated with global warming. Global warming will result in serious environmental consequences if steps are not taken to reduce emissions.
Increasing levels of CO2 have come about as a result of both burning fossil fuels and tropical rainforest deforestation.
This type of deforestation is currently responsible for almost 20% of man-made greenhouse emissions, whereas new forest growth from both indigenous and plantation forestry can actually remove carbon from the air.
Although the world’s climate has always changed, the fear is that human activities will trigger an unusually rapid and severe warming, with associated effects such as massive droughts, floods and sea-level rises.
Nearly every government has agreed to attempt to limit the increase in emissions.
The New Zealand Government has embarked on a programme to reduce our collective carbon footprint.
This is proposed to involve all sectors of the economy, and all greenhouse gases.
The idea is for each sector to take responsibility for its own emissions either by reducing them or by buying “New Zealand Emission-Reduction Units” (NZUs) from someone else who has done so - emissions will be traded.
This is intended to ensure that market forces will discover the most cost-effective ways of reduction, and minimise harm to the economy. Starting from July 1st 2008, forestry is the first sector to be phased into the new legislation, but other sectors will be added later.
Those intending to deforest land (change the land cover from forest to non-forest) will need to obtain NZUs equivalent to the carbon that they are responsible for releasing.
Exemptions include approved owners of smaller woodlots of less than 50 hectares or owners who have allowed the government to retain all their NZUs and liabilities.
Those who have planted trees on non-forested sites after 1989, and those who intend to plant trees, can choose to receive units corresponding to the gain in carbon in their woodlots – and sell them on the market. But if they select this option, they will need to take responsibility for any loss in carbon that occurs, whether it be from natural disaster, deforestation or routine harvesting.
They must also cover the costs of measuring, verifying, insuring, registering and trading their units.