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Environment and Climate Change – Native Forest Logging

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Climate Change

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, talking about reducing emissions which you have agreed is a key and important measure -

Mr JAENSCH - It has to be the main game.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. I will draw you to the recent research from Dr Brendan Mackey and others, environmental research published in April this year. Looking at a case study, the Paris Agreement Global Warming target, they have identified the role of Tasmania in reducing our emissions and particularly in the net zero emissions that we have. They have done the research and credit that, in their words, the cessation of logging that resulted in immediate large-scale, avoided anthropogenic emissions. That was the logging that ceased as a result of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement process between 2011-12 and ongoing in years after that. The area of forest logged declined by 50 per cent.

Minister, the point that they make is that the removal of forests from clear-filling and the regrowth of the native forests afterwards, has contributed 44 per cent of our state's negative net emissions that were reported under the remaining forest land in Australia, for the whole of the country. We make a huge contribution in Tasmania, an enormous part of our net zero is because we have ceased logging as much of the forest as we did.

However, there are some 400 000 hectares still l available as native forests for logging under the permanent timber production zone area,

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, can you get to the point of your question, please?

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, you said before that reducing emissions has to be a key focus, it is everything that we do. Minister, do you accept that our net zero status is because we stopped the clear-felling and burning of those forests, and that we can stop avoiding emissions by ending native forest logging and allowing sequestration by retaining the forests that are there?

Mr JAENSCH - I am aware of Professor Mackey's comments. I acknowledged in my opening statements, that our current emissions status was contributed to by significant changes in our management of our forest estate in recent years.

Dr WOODRUFF - Could you just say what you mean by significant changes in the management of the forest? What do you mean exactly?

Mr JAENSCH - As you referred to. I also, though, referred to what Ms White has expressed in terms of just transition, and ensuring that we take our communities and our economy through a smooth transition to low emissions, no matter what sector we are in. Now, some of the changes that you referred to were absolutely devastating for regional communities and economies. They weren't a just transition, and I don't think we want to repeat that sort of shock to our economy and to our communities.

However, in relation to Professor Mackey's comments, I note that the IPCC's Special Report on Climate Change and Land from August 2019 confirmed that sustainable forest management can maintain or enhance forest carbon stocks and can maintain forest carbon sinks, including by transferring carbon to wood products. We believe, understand, and support the IPCC research finding that a mixed strategy of conservation and timber production is the most likely optimal mix for atmospheric carbon reduction and forest resilience.

We need to continue to invest in getting that balance right within our forest estate, but also through things like investing in more trees on farms - agroforestry - and more plantings in our landscape that help to not only capture carbon and suck it out of the atmosphere, but contribute to the productivity of our agricultural landscapes as well. I don't think that another episode of closing down industries is what we need here, it's not a just transition. The research is showing us that a mixed strategy of conservation and timber production, such as we have now, is more likely to be optimal for atmospheric carbon reduction and resilience of our forests.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you for pointing us to that particular research, which is now outdated. It has been superseded by research done by the IPCC, and by the agreement last year after the Conference of the Parties, where Australia signed up to the Glasgow Declaration and where we committed to ending the clear-felling of native forests. I don't know how much wiggle room the previous Prime Minister was going to have on that; it was obviously a face-saving measure for him. But, I hope, the current Government - on the basis of the recent election and the comprehensive vote in support of climate action - will be doing everything possible to hasten the end of native forest logging because of the emissions it produces.

So, minister, can you just be clear; do you understand a just transition can involve providing communities with meaningful, sustainable work, and that in fact, what your Government is doing is stringing communities along with a form of industry which is unsustainable, heavily subsidised by this Government, and is contributing directly to the heating of the planet?

Mr JAENSCH - We remain committed to a balanced, mixed strategy of conservation and timber production from our forests - getting that balance right; ensuring that it's still a strong contributor in our economy; and, as you've said on a couple of occasions through your questions, or statements, capturing the benefits of regrowth of forests that have been harvested to draw carbon out of the atmosphere

Dr WOODRUFF - This is total rubbish. You are perpetuating this myth that you can grow it back in a timeframe that will do anything valuable for the planet.