The folly of the native forest carbon solution

NZ Farm Forestry Association

22 FEBRUARY 2022

The Farm Forestry Association says anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond’s recently publicised views, that planting native forests offer the best solution to the climate crisis, is misinformed and misleading.

Association President Graham West says the overwhelming evidence is that instead, using managed exotic forests, as carbon sequestration off-sets,will provide the only currently affordable and viable solution for New Zealand to reach its 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“Dame Anne doesn’t offer a timeline for her native tree solution” Graham West says, “But unfortunately the time horizon is absolutely crucial.  We do not have 100 or 200 hundred years to spare in which to wait for native trees to lock up appreciable volumes of carbon.  The climate change issues are far more urgent than that.”

“Offsetting may not be internationally accepted by all, but as we all get more desperate, the solutions will become more pragmatic.”

“The call for a ‘nature based’ solution should not preclude exotics. They are natural in a different part of the globe. We comfortably rely on many exotics, including pasture species, farm animals, kiwifruit and other introduced fruit and vegetables.”

 “So why not forests? Should we farm weka or kiwi as the only natural option for food production in New Zealand?” Graham West asks.

“Reserving the permanent carbon option for native forests is not supported by the science. We need to lock-up extra carbon dioxide in large reservoirs quickly. Choosing native species to plant will limit this severely, or require a far greater land area and a vast government spend to establish these trees.”

“What’s worse, it passes the problem to our children.”

“On average, a hectare of our native forest will take hundreds of years to sequester about 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide and then stop adding any more. In comparison, many exotic tree species will store about twice that in 70 years and continue growing.

“There are hundreds of measurement plots in our exotic forest plantations that verify this.”

“It’s too late to wait for a ‘natural’ solution or hope for a miracle cure for emissions. We need to quickly protect our primary sector market access, by reverting and managing about 400,000 hectares of our marginal land back into forest.”

“Much of this is scattered through the landscape, often at the back of farms where access precludes timber harvest.”

“The real engine-room of the economy is the flat land that is accessible to machinery. In the short term we need to deflect concerns about animal emissions on this land by off-setting.”

“Like our COVID response strategy, New Zealand needs to be bold and fast. To show the world a land use change to offsetting is a necessary solution, the whole world could adopt to react to climate change within a timeframe that saves our economy and possibly human life.”

“We have the land, tree species, and the knowhow. Let’s implement an effective action plan that encourages world action”

Graham West
National President NZ Farm Forestry Association