Monday, May 11, 2015

Climate change: A drop in the bucket

Today's pre-budget announcement: the government is renewing the Afforestation Grant Scheme, which pays people to plant forests to fight climate change:

The Government has today confirmed a multi-million dollar reboot of the popular Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS), Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew says.

The new version of the scheme will see $22.5 million invested over the next six years to encourage the planting of an expected 15,000 hectares of new forest.

So how much of a difference will this make to our future climate change targets? Fuck all. According to the governments official tables in the Climate Change (Forestry Sector) Regulations 2008, a growing forest absorbs sequesters between 10 and 30 tons of carbon per hectare, depending on age, type and location. According to our official inventory report, our 659,332 hectares of post-1989 forest sequester 17.06 million tons of CO2 a year, or roughly 26 tons per hectare. So, the total expected annual removals from this policy in ~2030, when we'll need them, is about 390,000 tons. Which against projected net emissions of ~85 million tons, is the thin end of fuck all (which is, when you think about it, what you'd expect from a policy costing all of $3.75 million a year).

If the government was serious about using trees to balance our greenhouse gas emissions, it would spend more than pocket change on them. Increasing it tenfold, to $225 million over six years (or $37.5 million a year) would see 2030 removals of close to 4 million tons annually - close to 5% of our total, and enough to make a significant difference. But that would cost real money, and actually be doing something. Instead, as with so many other things, our government treats its policy as a PR exercise, designed to give the impression of action while really doing nothing.