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Environment and Climate Change – Native Forest Logging Emissions

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the latest news from the World Meteorological Organisation has the planet breaching the critical 1.5 degree Celsius above the long-term average temperature threshold within the next four years. There's a 66 per cent likelihood that that will be within the next two to three years. That is a distressingly short amount of time. Are you worried about what's happening and the predictions for the really calamitous consequences - the words they're using - to our climate conditions?

Mr JAENSCH - Yes. That's why we're producing these action plans, these sector-based plans, and why we're investing $260 million in action on climate change. One of the very important parts of this, which is costing a lot of money in our action plan but is incredibly important for Tasmanians, is what's called the fine-scale climate projections or the downscale climate projections, which is our way of taking the latest modelled future climate scenarios and zooming in to a fine-scale in Tasmania to tell us what that means for us and our settlements, our industries, our regions and our economy. For example, how will the latest modelled projections for climate change influence the distribution of frost or chill units or rainfall or fire risk in the Tasmanian landscape? This has bearings on where people are planting cherries and grapes and other things now and has direct practical effect in our economy at a whole range of different scales. That is a critical piece of work that we're investing in. What's the allocation for that in the action plan?

Dr RUSSELL - About $2 million.

Mr JAENSCH - Around $2 million of the $10 million that was announced as part of the action plan is going to these fine-scale climate projections. All of our sectors and our planning needs to know, despite what we're doing about emissions reduction, what the future is going to look like here, how it affects our industries, our people, our health and these other matters. That's foundational information we need as soon as possible to inform our next climate change action plan, which will be a five-year plan for the period 2025-30.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. As a former climate scientist, I can say that 25 years ago we knew the outlook was bleak, but the latest information we've got on the impact for Tasmanians is extremely concerning. What we need to be doing, according to all the scientists, is not just comforting ourselves with a net zero emissions aim, but as the global community, we have to working towards absolute zero emissions. All carbon emissions are leading to an increase in heating and we have reached our limit. Are you aware of Dr Jen Sanger's work on the carbon emissions of native forest logging and burning?


Dr WOODRUFF - Has your department undertaken an investigation of that work? Do you have your own work to refute or to support the evidence she provided that native forest logging practices, including burning, emit more than 2.5 times our total transport sector emissions in a year?

Mr JAENSCH - We've built our plan and consulted our plan on the basis of work undertaken to plot Tasmania's emissions pathways, which has identified a range of sectors and areas in which there's opportunities for Tasmania to reduce emissions and increase sequestration of carbon dioxide. We need to be doing everything we can on all fronts to reduce emissions and contribute to the global effort to slow climate change.

We've taken all lines of evidence into account. We know that there are areas where there is still emerging science and there's contested science on different options and models. We're keen to work with all of our sectors on the opportunities that are available to them. That's what we will be doing through the emissions reduction and resilience plans, as well as through our action plan, to take action now doing things we know will make a difference.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you please answer the question. Are you aware of Dr Jen Sanger's report?

Mr JAENSCH - I said yes.

Dr WOODRUFF - Does your department have any modelling or estimates of native forest logging practice emissions to support or refute it?

Mr JAENSCH - I referred to the work that was commissioned to develop our emissions pathway report and our review of our previous Climate Change Action Plan and legislation that we are now building our action plans on. What you see -

Dr WOODRUFF - What did it tell us about native forest practices?

Mr JAENSCH - is the outputs of that work and the consultation that we undertook.

Dr WOODRUFF - She estimates 4.65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent gases are released each year, comprising both short-term and long-term carbon emissions relating to current and legacy forestry practices. Do you have any figures that you would like to provide to the committee on what you think the estimates of what native forest logging and burning is in Tasmania?

Mr JAENSCH - I'll refer you to the work that the Government commissioned on these matters. I'm not going to try and out-science you here. A whole range of sectors have emissions associated with their operations and, in the case of forest operations, significant sequestration of carbon dioxide. And capture in durable form, in solid wood products that can be used in our building industry and elsewhere, as well as standing in our forests and our plantation footprint.

One of the things that our action plan points to is investment in growing the agri-forestry sector in Tasmania and getting more trees on farms in our rural landscape.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, could you please provide an answer to the question: do you have information on the emissions from native forest logging and burning, and the carbon stocks and sequestration that's provided by our native forests? You report on this as part of our United Nations convention through the Australian Government. Do you have the information on the carbon emission components of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change?

Mr JAENSCH - That's a slightly different question to what you asked before. Dr Russell will provide an update on our emissions reporting by sector.

Dr RUSSELL - In accordance with the legislation, we report using an international United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change on our emissions. We currently have five key sectors, as you would be aware, and land use, land use change is where native forestry activity sits, though working in that sub-sector isn't clearly defined. It's accounted for in another sub-sector so it's not aggregated down to that level. But we will report in accordance with this framework, in accordance with Australian protocols and international protocols, which are audited annually and are consistently reviewed and modified over time.

Dr WOODRUFF - Are you saying that there is no disaggregation of the land use, land use change and forestry into emissions and sequestration components? The carbon cycle's moving, you know that; and there are many factors that provoke emissions from forests, including fires and also logging, clear-felling and emissions from wastage on the forestry floor and the burning that goes with the logging practices. Do we collect or estimate any of that component when we report on the LULUCF?

Dr RUSSELL - There is a range of assumptions which are used in this reporting framework.

Dr WOODRUFF - And those assumptions are available?

Dr RUSSELL - Through the Australian Government and the international protocols that are currently in place.

Dr WOODRUFF - Who provides the data for those assumptions on the native forest logging part?

Dr RUSSELL - There's a range of data sources which go into that process.

Dr WOODRUFF - Where are they collected from?

Dr RUSSELL - Information from Sustainable Timber Tasmania. There is currently a new methodology that has been applied this year - satellite technology - so there have been improvements and this will be detailed in our greenhouse gas report.

Dr WOODRUFF - Is that STT annual reporting of data available because they provide it to you.

Dr RUSSELL - They have always provided that information. No, they do not provide it to me; they provide it to the Australian Government and it is incorporated into the model through the FullCAM model.

Dr WOODRUFF - They provide it to the Australia Government. Your department minister doesn't see that information at all. Is that correct?

Mr JAENSCH - It is very important that when we are reporting on emissions that we are using units and methodologies that are recognised and standard and comparable to what we have had here in the past and across jurisdictions as well. We aren't generating those emissions reports ourselves, as a state; there is a standard, central - you know all this. I table the report on Tasmania's emissions but it's not a report that we generate; it's a report that Tasmania feeds information into but it's calculated centrally on an internationally recognised format.

Dr WOODRUFF - It comes from Tasmanian sectors. Yes, I know all that. It comes from industry sectors including, in this instance, Sustainable Timbers Tasmania. My question is: does it come to you, in your department, at all?

Dr RUSSELL - No, we get the data and the LULUCF sector, as I said, is divided down into different subsectors. Within the remaining forest land, we have a range of data inputs; that is, harvested native forests, plantations and other native forests as well.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you provide me with that data, please?

Dr RUSSELL - It will be in the greenhouse gas emissions report, to the level that we can.

Dr WOODRUFF - When will that be available?

Mr JAENSCH - Mr Voss will speak to that.

Mr VOSS - In the greenhouse gas report, as Dr Russell said, we have an additional appendix this year which gives a bit more of a breakdown of LULUCF data sources and reporting methodology. You might find that informative when we release it.

Dr WOODRUFF - When will that be, Mr Voss?

Mr VOSS - Shortly.

Dr RUSSELL - We could do that today.

Dr WOODRUFF - Today would be lovely; even better. You can do it today because you have got it today; it is already ready. Maybe you could provide it to me at the committee. If you have it, could you provide it to me?

Mr JAENSCH - You just asked the same question four times, in one breath.

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm just a bit excited to know it is already here.

Mr JAENSCH - No, it won't be today.

Dr WOODRUFF - You may not want it to be today but I am sitting in the committee, asking for you to provide me with that information which you have just revealed you are shortly to be releasing to the Tasmanian community. It's not secret. It's public information. You might not like it, but we're here asking the questions today. You've obviously got it; can I please have it.

Mr JAENSCH - I don't have it.

Dr WOODRUFF - No, but Dr Russell looks like she's got it and she is sitting next to you.

Mr JAENSCH - She will be providing it to me, as minister, with advice as per the usual process.

Dr WOODRUFF - Are you withholding that from the committee when we have asked for it?

Mr JAENSCH - Anything that I am providing, I need to see first and understand well.

Dr WOODRUFF - Because you want to manage the politics of it?

Mr JAENSCH - No, because I am a minister and when you are a minister that is what you have to do.

Dr WOODRUFF - When you are an MP and you are sitting in budget Estimates scrutiny, we ask the questions and you give us the answers. Can I please have that tabled for the committee.

Mr JAENSCH - No, I won't be tabling that for you today.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, you said earlier that we need to do more to reduce emissions across all sectors. What are you doing to reduce the emissions in the native forest logging industry, specifically STT's activities?

Mr JAENSCH - Dr Russell will refer to a couple of actions in the action plan that go to forestry activity. But, these are the types of matters that we will unpack in greater detail in the LULUCF emissions reduction resilience plan that we will be developing over the next two years.

Dr WOODRUFF - Two years is a long time in a climate crisis when we are going to hit 1.5 degrees in the next couple of years.

Mr JAENSCH - That's right. Therefore, in our action plan with our $10 million investment supporting things like increases in agroforestry, where we have a known technology, a very simple way of planting trees.

Dr WOODRUFF - I know all about that. It is really about the native forest logging and burning sector.

Mr JAENSCH - And there is lots of guidance out there for it. We are taking action. You're very focused on a very specific area that you are very invested in prosecuting. You're welcome to do that, but there is a far broader program of activity that we are investing in across several sectors. Dr Russell, do you want to refer to those programs?

Dr RUSSELL - Under the Climate Change Action Plan, the second priority area, transition and innovation, under the key theme 2.5, three programs are detailed there in relation to supporting the broader land use, land use change and forestry sector. We have support for landowners to plant more trees on their properties. The second one relates to another program which sits in another portfolio area that is being managed by NRE Tas. That is the forestry hub and the farm forestry carbon tool. We also have some policy work being undertaken by our colleagues in NRE Tas in relation to supporting that sector.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Dr Russell. I appreciate the position you're in.

Minister, none of those things relate to the native forest logging

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Dr Russell. I appreciate the position you're in. Minister, none of those things relate to the native forest logging and burning sector. I'm suggesting that you're not being honest with Tasmanians when you say we need to reduce emissions across all sectors. We know that our huge forest reserve estate is an enormous source of carbon sequestration and you understand that very well yourself because of our current low-emissions profile. However, it's very hard for some industries to reduce emissions. It's very hard for cement processing to reduce emissions. It's very easy to prevent the emissions from native forest logging and burning by transitioning people to jobs in forest management, bushfire prevention, tracks and trails. We don't need to go into the politics but we do need to be honest about the actual emissions that are occurring.

Mr JAENSCH - It's somewhat ironic that you say it's very hard for the cement industry to reduce its emissions, but it's easy for the native forest industry by ceasing to exist. We don't support that. We have a different position to you.

Dr WOODRUFF - What are you doing to reduce the emissions? Are you doing nothing?

Mr JAENSCH - We have a different position on this to you politically in terms of your very clear objective to close down the native forest industry and our very clear position not to. In our native forest sector, our managed forests that are harvested are regrown and have a balance between the emissions involved in conducting that sector's work and the sequestration that happens as a result of regrowing the timber resource. That is in fine balance. There is a lot of people with a lot of years of science invested in getting that right. There are some areas of contested science in that, which you've referred to at length. We will continue to work with that sector and all the others to continuously improve the way those forests are managed.

At this stage, we are not seeking to close down the native forest industry and we never will. We know that's what you want. We could spend a lot of time disagreeing about that here today or we could talk about what we're doing across our economy to reduce emissions and to adapt to climate change.

Dr WOODRUFF - I know you mightn't like to talk about these things but we get to ask the questions.

Mr JAENSCH - I'm not sure we're going to get anywhere.

Dr WOODRUFF - That's up to me to decide, thank you, minister. Yesterday a group of seven very well-esteemed doctors from general practice and emergency medicine and medical officers and people who have given a lot of service to Tasmania and continue to do so, penned another letter to the Tasmanian Government. They wrote to Peter Gutwein when he was the Climate Change minister. They have written urging you and your Government to follow the lead of Victoria and end native forest logging because they say the medical evidence is clear that climate change is the biggest threat to our health. It is affecting us with increasingly adverse weather events, particularly bushfires and storms. There's untold mental health trauma from those experiences, as well as deaths from heatwaves, asthma, emphysema, heart attacks, bushfire smoke. There's a very long list.

Minister, will you meet with those doctors because along with them, who are there when we need them, the majority of Australians are very concerned about the native forest logging industry and its impact on the climate? That's been established by the Forest Products Association themselves. They tried to sink that survey. Will you meet with those doctors and listen to their concerns? It would be the least you could do as Climate Change minister?

Mr JAENSCH - I've already spoken with some of those doctors in different forums and we have the AMA represented as a founding member of our climate change reference group. It had its first meetings just a few weeks ago and we welcome their involvement, their concern and their interest in climate change. In my discussions, the health concerns that doctors have around climate change are valid. We must listen to them and work with them to ensure that those are addressed as part of not only our emissions mitigation work but particularly in terms of our adaption responses as well. On that front, the doctors I've spoken to who are concerned about climate are concerned about us taking action on emissions generally as well - not solely focused on native forest logging as a policy matter or a political issue. They are far more invested in a broader range of issues to do with climate change. I'm very glad to have their involvement with the reference group.

Dr WOODRUFF - Why are you requiring all the other industries in Tasmania to develop emissions reduction action plans, but you're not requiring your own state business - Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) - to do the same? You're not requiring or providing any emissions reduction requirement or action plans on that company. Why not?

Mr JAENSCH - They're part of the LULUCF sector, and there'll be an emissions reduction and resilience plan for that.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you be working with STT and requiring them specifically to reduce emissions?

Mr JAENSCH - We'll be looking to see what each of those sectors sees as its pathway to emissions reduction and resilience under a changed climate future.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you think of any reasonable reduction in emissions for STT, other than to cease their practices?

Mr JAENSCH - We'll be working with all of those sectors and their contributors to look at all the options for emissions reductions that they can incorporate in their future planning, and we'll support them where we can.

Dr WOODRUFF - Will you make publicly available data on the emissions that are being contributed by their activities every year?

Mr JAENSCH - We report greenhouse gas emissions data -

Dr WOODRUFF - That's a minimum reporting requirement; it's not a maximum. Why would you hide that? If you're so proud of that industry, why wouldn't you be open about everything that's part of it? That's a minimum reporting requirement to the international convention. You can do more than that.

Mr JAENSCH - We're going to base our emissions reporting on what's provided for in our legislation. We've committed to a standard, sector-based format for reporting on emissions. That's what matters, and that's what we'll be putting out.