By PHILIP HOPKINS
THE Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has backed Australia’s sustainably managed native and plantation timber industries role, in achieving Australia’s net zero emissions goal and ending global deforestation.
Speaking at the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Members Dinner in Canberra recently, Mr Albanese congratulated AFPA and the National Farmers Federation (NFF) for leading a joint agriculture and forestry delegation to the climate talks just concluded in Egypt.
He was adamant that Australia’s signing of the Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership (FCLP) at COP27, initiated by the UK, was completely consistent with supporting climate smart forestry such as is practiced in Australia:
“The Partnership is consistent with our sustainable native forestry practices, and it will see us focus on promoting sustainable production and trade, along with scaling up regional carbon markets,” he said.
“We will work together to meet our commitments and provide new and yet-to-be-developed renewable forest materials to help move Australia to a net zero economy.”
Mr Albanese also backed the vital role of Australia’s timber plantation sector in meeting Australia’s net zero emission goals. He committed to working with the sector to maximise its opportunities in the carbon market by removing regulatory barriers in the Emissions Reduction Fund.
“I know the plantation industry wants to play its part in achieving net zero emissions, and we want to work with you in doing just that,” he said.
“One thing we’re particularly keen to do is to ensure that your sector can fully participate in generating and benefiting from carbon credits.” Mr Albanese said the government was undertaking an independent review of its carbon credits system so Australia can benefit from a strong, credible marketplace.
“We’ll continue to work with you to remove barriers to investment in plantations and farm forestry, including changes to the water interception rule.”
Under section 20AB of the Carbon Farming Initiative, plantation forestry and farm forestry in areas with average rainfall above 600 millimetres need to meet conditions, known as ‘the water rule’, that don’t cramp the availability of water.
These conditions include having a suitable water access entitlement, or being in a region where tree planting is unlikely to have a bad impact on water availability.
Permanent environmental plantings are exempt from the water rule. Whereas permanent plantings that are not environmental plantings are subject to the water rule.
The water rule was amended in 2020; plantation and farm forestry now meet the water rule if they are in region specified as one in which tree planting is unlikely to hit water availability.
Since then, regions have been specified in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. Most of these regions align with the Regional Forestry Hubs, which are priority locations for forestry and timber manufacturing.
The federal government aims to amend the CFI to remove the water rule, which industry says would remove a key regulatory barrier for plantation and farm forestry projects.
The chair of AFPA, Diana Gibbs, thanked Mr Albanese and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator, Murray Watt, for their support of forestry and its role in delivering climate goals, timber for our homes, regional jobs and sovereign capability.
“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to thank them both for the more than $300 million in election commitments which have been delivered in the budget,” she said.
“These commitments will help us drive innovation to deliver more timber from the sustainably used forests we already have, as well as start the urgent business of adding more production trees to the estate.”
Ms Gibbs said the federal government had committed to planting another billion production trees.
“We are well behind on this goal. As well as stocking the hardware shelves, a billion more trees will also be a major down payment on the government’s 43 per cent emissions reduction target, so we really are in a position to deliver a win-win if the policy settings are right,” she said.
“Importantly, we also have bipartisan support for these policies, and we thank Shadow Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Jonno Duniam, for speaking in support of these policies.”