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Forest industries have the potential to deliver a win, win, win in climate fight

OPINION EDITORIAL: Originally published in Timber & Forestry E-News

Forestry must be a part of Australia’s Net Zero 2050 plan.

In the lead up to international climate talks in Glasgow there is considerable debate about how Australia might more greatly contribute to the global fight against climate change. A crackdown on the big emitters is a theme, along with recognition of carbon stored in farming practices.

But one the most obvious tools seems to have fallen to the bottom of many politicians’ kit bags. It’s so obvious to those of us who work in Australia’s forest industries that it leaves us scratching our heads as to why decision makers aren’t recognising native and plantation forestry as part of the solution.

It’s a no-brainer really. As trees grow, they suck in the carbon dioxide that we’re working to reduce in the atmosphere. Then after years of growing when trees are harvested to create timber products for buildings, furniture or cardboard boxes, the carbon is then locked up in a useful and environmentally friendly product.

Australia’s forest industries have the potential to deliver a win, win, win outcome from the climate crisis.

Australia is on track to experience major timber shortages in the coming decades if more production trees aren’t planted locally by 2030. We’ve seen ripples during the pandemic of what will happen if we don’t act. About 400,000 hectares of new trees is needed to complement our existing two-million-hectare plantation estate if we are to avert a national timber shortage. Australia will be 250,000 house frames short of demand by 2035 if we don’t get more trees planted.

Now here’s the major kicker on the climate solution front. If we plant those 400,000 hectares of new trees by 2030, that would offset the equivalent emissions produced by almost 50 million cars in a year by 2050! That’s two and a half fold the number of cars in Australia or 200 million tonnes of CO2-e in total.

Additionally, that does not include the major carbon mitigation contribution made by Australia’s native forestry estate. It’s United Nations accepted science that native forests sustainably harvested for timber and then regrown, result in greater carbon mitigation than forests that remain untouched.

If we strengthen our forestry industry, not only will it become a stronger force to fight climate change, win one, it will also ensure we have the timber we need for future generations to build new homes, win two, all while providing new jobs in a rapidly evolving industry, especially in regional areas where jobs are critical, win three.

There’s your win, win, win Australia.

Ross Hampton, CEO

Australian Forest Products Association

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