Government must encourage Carbon Farming to offset Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The scientific facts get more and more grim with every passing week. Barely a month after the IPCC presented their biggest warning to date that the planet risks catastrophic climate events if we don’t make radical change within a decade, we hear last week that even meeting the targets in the Paris Agreement will dangerously warm the planet and that the tipping point for irreversible ice sheet meltdown is 1.5 degrees Celsius. That on top of the news that the 2018 emissions will be the world’s highest topping even 2017 which was also the highest on record.
Ninety one percent of New Zealanders, in submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill, have responded to global warming by supporting a net zero target across all gases by 2050.
The surest way to help is for farmers to plant permanent forests to offset their own emissions and for other landowners to carbon farm and on sell the credits to businesses making the transition to reduce their emissions. Apart from income from the carbon, there are other benefits, land with forest cover is found to have 90% less damage after severe rainfall, carbon farming doesn’t have the impacts of rotational forestry where there is potential for pine slash to devastate the environment through extreme rainfall.
But many landowners aren’t convinced about carbon farming especially those still carrying the debts incurred from the crash in the price of carbon a few years ago.
I’ve been on the road with Sir Mark Solomon, Dame Tariana and Hone Harawira on their mission to encourage Māori landowners to plant permanent forests. Having heard, in some areas, a preference for native forest regeneration, Dr Adam Forbes who did his PhD research on how best to accelerate full canopy natives such as Rimu, Kahikatea and Totara was consulted. His advice is that the growth of native forests can be accelerated to achieve full canopy cover provided certain interventions are undertaken, including planting seedlings and creating optimal light wells. As the pines carbon life cycle near its end, the natives begins. The advantage of this mix is that income is generated by pine, net carbon emissions goals assisted and the future spread of native forests assured.
There are now several carbon farming investment offers being presented to landowners. What makes Sir Mark and Tariana’s special is that their carbon credits carry a premium as they include such things as funding a planting plan that takes into consideration the ancient natives from that particular piece of land (identified from soil samples), setting up of jobs and training in nursery and planting businesses, capital investment covering forest management for 30 years, 50 – 50 share profits with the landowners and 100 percent to owners after the first 30 years.
The long submission from the Federation of Maori Authorities made no plea to exempt methane from the Zero Carbon Bill. Instead it cautioned against making Māori whose land suffers historical barriers to development carry an unfair share of the transition to a low carbon economy. Māori landowners have enough suitable land to make the difference between achieving our net emissions targets or not.
But, like all farmers and landowners they need to be assured that they are entering into a stable and fair ETS system and that they will be supported in a long game.
Donna Awatere Huata – Māori Climate Commissioner