12 Dec 2012

Forestry sector assesses effect of Kyoto decision

10:39 am on 12 December 2012

New Zealand's change of stance on the Kyoto Protocol covering greenhouse gas emissions may have little bearing on the forestry sector.

New Zealand is still a member of the Kyoto Protocol but has opted not to sign up to the second commitment period which runs from next year to 2020.

Critics of the Government's stand say that will shut New Zealand out of Kyoto carbon markets from 2015 to 2020.

The forestry sector was the first to be brought fully into New Zealand's emissions trading scheme, with the opportunity to earn and sell carbon credits gained from tree planting.

Forest Owners Association research committee chair Peter Clark says it's still assessing the implications of New Zealand's Kyoto decision.

But he says the initial impression is that it may have little impact because the damage has already been done by changes to the ETS legislation, which doesn't get reviewed again until 2015.

"I think as far as the forest industry's concerned the horse has already bolted. We've had the Climate Change Response Act changed and it's allowed the unrestricted import of cheap foreign credits, that's meant in effect we don't have a price on carbon in New Zealand that would encourage planting or indeed would encourage emitters to invest in green technologies."

Mr Clark said statistics available on planting suggest those in the forestry sector have already decided not to plant trees for carbon investment, and that deforestation and conversion back to dairy farming is taking place.

Access to Kyoto carbon markets

Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says New Zealand businesses participating in the Emissions Trading Scheme will continue to have access to existing Kyoto carbon markets until the first commitment period runs out in 2015.

But he has also confirmed that because New Zealand hasn't signed up to the second commitment period, they won't have access to those markets from 2015 to 2020.

Mr Groser says the Government is reviewing a number of trading options for that period through to 2020, when a new comprehensive international agreement will become operational.

He says it is also continuing with a development programme for the auctioning of New Zealand carbon units.