Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Climate Change: The double benefit of forestry conversions

Rural communities are wailing about forestry conversions "taking land out of production" and putting it into locking up carbon. Its driven purely by economics: there's more money and lower costs in carbon than in sheep or beef, and if carbon prices rise, there'll be more net money than dairy even. But while they're all worrying about the threat to their rural lifestyle, there's an obvious benefit too:

Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis has seen 13 farms in her district sell in the past year. Everyday she is contacted by a worried constituent.


Collis estimates the sales represent 47,500 sheep and 20,500 cattle gone.

And at 2 tons CO2-equivalent per beef cow and 300 kg per sheep, that's over 55,000 tons of emissions we won't have to worry about every year. Better, as it is methane, the effect is even more significant, because methane is a hugely-powerful (but short-lived) greenhouse gas, and exactly the gas we need to focus on cutting. The carbon price of those avoided emissions is already $1.375 million, and if prices are allowed to rise, it won't be too long before their value exceeds the $1.7 million annual economic activity of the farms they have displaced. In other words, simply shutting down those farms is likely to be more beneficial to the local economy than letting them continue to operate. And that's without even considering the value of the carbon stored.

Looked at like this, the message is clear: the sooner marginal farms shut down and are converted to trees, the better off we'll all be.