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Govt plants seeds for more forest planting

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/10/2016 Pattrick Smellie

The government is considering measures to further encourage more forestry planting as it examines whether locally grown forests will be cheaper than buying foreign carbon credits to meet its climate change targets.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett told the Climate Change and Business Conference in Auckland that "how to get more trees in the ground" is a key part of its work on the supply of carbon credits into the country's emissions trading scheme in the 2020s.

Earlier this month, the government ratified the new global climate change deal agreed at the annual global conference in Paris last year, ahead of this year's global meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, in December.

New Zealand committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, using a combination of local emissions reductions, storing carbon in forests, and buying international carbon credits.

"If forestry is cheaper than purchasing international units, and we think it might be, there is a strong economic case for planting more trees." Ms Bennett said.

Among forestry policy changes under consideration were "how to make the New Zealand ETS more attractive to foresters. We know that forests (and foresters) come in all shapes and sizes, so it's a matter of understanding what mix of approaches fit best," she said.

Plantation foresters have faced major policy uncertainty under the current government's climate change policies.

The price of carbon collapsed below 50 cents a tonne earlier this decade when major emitters were allowed to use low-quality and sometimes fraudulent credits bought from former Soviet blocs to offset local emissions.

Policy changes since then have seen the price of carbon rise, with the removal of a subsidy for major emitters earlier this year pushing New Zealand Units of carbon to $18.80 per tonne from around $7 a year ago.

Foresters have said $15 a tonne is a trigger price for justifying plantation forestry investment, but the industry is gun-shy, having ramped up planting in the past only to see policy changes undermine their decisions.

She hoped to have a National Policy Statement on climate change in place in the next 12 months or so.

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