Foresters urge Kyoto rethink
Forest owners say New Zealanders' support for the Kyoto Protocol will crumble if the government doesn't change its approach to it following the jump in forecast carbon emissions.
The government has discovered that forecast emissions of greenhouse gases have jumped and estimates of the amount of carbon forests will absorb have fallen.
So New Zealand is likely to exceed its net emissions of greenhouse gases by 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide during the protocol's first commitment period of 2008-2112.
That means that instead of having a surplus of carbon credits, as the government predicted last year, New Zealand will need to buy credits from other Kyoto countries to cover the shortfall, at a predicted cost of about $1 billion.
The Kyoto Forestry Association says New Zealanders strongly support the protocol and are concerned about climate change, but the government has implemented it incompetently.
Spokesman Roger Dickie told parliament's Commerce Select Committee the government will now end up writing large cheques to industry in Chernobyl, Gdansk and Lake Baikal instead of investing in energy conservation, social services, tax relief and economic development at home.
"Public support for Kyoto will crumble, putting the environment and New Zealand's international reputation at risk," Dickie said.
He said a study by UMR Research in January showed 74% of New Zealanders regard climate change as a serious environmental issue facing the country and nearly 40% believe it is the most important environmental problem facing the world.
Dickie said public support for the Kyoto initiative could be maintained if the government created a free market whereby polluting industries would buy carbon credits from foresters, reduce their own emissions, and invest in carbon reduction projects in developing countries.
He said this would allow the planned carbon tax to be dropped, and tree planting, which is almost inexistent at the moment, would be boosted to more than 50,000 hectares a year.
"The system we are recommending is the one intended by the world's leaders when they developed the protocol," Dickie said.
"It would create economic incentives in favour of the environment and against pollution. The government's only role would be to regulate the domestic carbon credit market, instead of taking risks and liabilities itself."