As Government Minister’s arrive in Paris for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has released its position statement provided to Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
The carbon benefits from the use of forest products are well summarised by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 4th assessment report, when it stated that: “A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”
The AFPA Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said, “With the right policy settings, the forest products industry could make a far more significant contribution to meeting the emissions reductions goals of the Australian Government, while at the same time providing much needed investment and jobs in forestry and wood and paper manufacturing.”
AFPA’s new policy proposal for the 2016 budget is centred on promoting plantation investment in 29 ‘Strategic Plantation Hubs’ based on major processing or port sites nationally, to increase the scale of existing resources and boost international competitiveness and downstream processing. According to AFPA calculations the planting of a modest 30,000 hectares per year over the next ten years (motivated by such mechanisms as the Emissions Reduction Fund), would capture and store 5 million tonnes per annum or an additional 50 million tonnes over that period. Mr Hampton said, “This is a phenomenal finding which can’t be ignored. It is the equivalent of a ‘450 million trees program’, and would represent by itself more than 5% of the Government’s total economy-wide cumulative abatement task to reduce emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030.”
AFPA’s submission also highlighted the larger potential role the forest, wood and paper products industry could play in the area of renewable bioenergy. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) recently reported that bioenergy output in this country could double over the next five years. The report identifies the high uptake in Europe of bioenergy, where forestry residues and offcuts contribute a massive two-thirds of renewable energy – mostly for generating heat. Mr Hampton said, “Renewable heat is well accepted internationally but lacking in Australia due to a shortcoming in our renewable energy settings. If this changes, ‘renewable thermal’ could be a large contributor to our nation’s ‘green’ energy targets.”