Monday, August 07, 2017

Climate change: A sad pretence of policy

Its election season, so the government is proudly announcing how much money it has spent to encourage new forests:

A total of 5183ha of new forest will be planted by 101 applicants who have received support through the 2017 Afforestation Grant Scheme funding round, Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston says.


“Estimates suggest that 1.1 million ha of land is at serious risk of erosion, and forest cover is the best form of erosion control. Through the AGS, we aim to plant 15,000ha of new forest by 2020,” says Ms Upston.

“The latest funding round drew 40 applications and 400ha more than last year’s. That brings the total number of hectares funded through the AGS since 2015 to 12,451, putting us well on track to achieving our 15,000ha goal by 2020.

1.1 million hectares of land under threat. So a paltry 15,000 hectares of forest (over five years!) to cover it. To ask the obvious, what about the other 1,085,000 hectares?

But we should also remember that this isn't really an erosion-control policy: its a climate change policy. Planting permanent forests is our best and quickest way of soaking up carbon from the atmosphere and buying time to decarbonise the economy. Once its through its initial establishment phase, a hectare of pine aborbs 25 tons of CO2 a year, every year, until it peaks in 40 or 50 years time. Doubling our current planting rate to 80,000 hectares a year would soak up an extra million tons of carbon from the atmosphere for every year we did it. That's the scale of ambition we need. Its achievable - we maintained this sort of planting rate for most of the 90's. Its cheap: a mere $40 million a year at AFG prices. Its the sort of thing a government which was serious about preventing climate change would be pushing hard to do. Instead, we've got the usual pretence of action, utterly disconnected in scale from the problem, aimed at getting headlines rather than actually doing anything. And when faced with a problem the size of climate change, it looks like downright negligence.