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Resources – Forestry Emissions


Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 8 June 2023

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

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, it is interesting to hear you talk about lock-ups. In your introduction, you proudly talked about our net zero status from a climate point of view. You well know, don't you, that our carbon account started to look really good and we hit net zero in 2013 after the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement. Are you prepared to concede that the Tasmanian forest agreement has made a major contribution to our net zero status?

Mr ELLIS - I will pass over to Mr Moreton -

Ms O'CONNOR - Why can't you answer that?

Mr ELLIS - to provide an interesting update, which will be of great interest to Ms O'Connor, but I will make a few points first. While our plantations are now the source of the majority of Tasmania's forest product, plantation timber alone cannot provide the full range of products required to meet the market -

Ms O'CONNOR - This is not relevant to my question.

Mr ELLIS - Tasmania is endowed with a large productive forest estate that sequesters carbon and provides society with low-emissions products. The Tasmanian Government has a strong record on climate action, being the first Australian jurisdiction to achieve net zero -

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, because of the Tasmanian forest agreement.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, order, please.

Mr ELLIS - in greenhouse gas emissions. I am looking forward to providing this information to you -

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I’ve seen the graph, so however you spin it -

CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Mr ELLIS - State and territory greenhouse gas inventory data demonstrates that the forestry sector first became a net carbon sink in 2006, and there has been a net carbon sink from 2009 onwards. Tasmania first achieved net negative emission status in 2013, maintaining net negative status emissions since - a total of nine reporting years. We have also legislated a nation leading target to maintain net zero emissions or lower from 2030.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change supports our approach.

Ms O'CONNOR - It does not.

Mr ELLIS - To quote the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, which was released in August 2019, perhaps Ms O'Connor has read it -

Ms O'CONNOR - You are lying about the climate science.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, order.

Mr ELLIS - sustainable forest management can prevent deforestation, maintain and enhance carbon sinks and can contribute towards greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

Ms O'CONNOR - Mowing down native forest is a climate crime.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor.

Mr ELLIS - Sustainable forest management generates socioeconomic benefits, provides fibre, timber and biomass to meet society's needs. Sustainable forest management can maintain or enhance forest carbon sinks, and can maintain forest carbon sinks including by transferring carbon to wood products. I will pass over to Mr Moreton to add to my remarks.

Mr MORETON - Through you, minister. The information the minister has quoted is effectively from a couple of sources. We use the National Inventory reporting; the national carbon accounting methodologies are set by national agencies in line with international standards. The Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water recently released the Climate Change National Inventory Report 2021.

I note that the recently released Tasmanian State of the Forest Report 2022 has some detailed information on emissions from forests and forestry that are broadly consistent with the National Inventory reporting data. What does it show? Emissions from land use, land use change and forestry are a significant contributor to Tasmania's net negative emissions status, as has been discussed. In 2021, Tasmania's LULUCF sector was a net carbon sink contributing –13 million tonnes of emitted carbon dioxide. This is actually more than enough to offset the total emissions of all the other sectors in the state, which totalled 8.33 million tonnes. Because it breaks it down, public forests, which is the Permanent Timber Production Zone Land so STT's land -

Ms O'CONNOR - What about the future reserve forests?

Mr MORETON - The STT land, the active forest management land, the PTPZ Land, has been net negative since 1990, which was the start of the recording data set. Sorry, the question was about the informal reserves?

Ms O'CONNOR - The future reserves.

Mr MORETON - Permanent Timber Production Zone Land has been net negative since 1990.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, can I ask, do you know how long it takes a log to coupe to regain the carbon that was lost through clearfell and burn?

Mr ELLIS - I hope Ms O'Connor listened closely to Mr Moreton's update there where -

Ms O'CONNOR - Who produced the State of the Forests report?

CHAIR - Order.

Mr ELLIS - It has worked through the FPA and the department. It is a statutory requirement. There is a federal State of the Forests Report as well. I know that it debunks a lot of what she says because it says that forestry done on our Permanent Timber Production Zone Land has been net negative in a carbon sense for the last 33 years and there is no data before that. It clearly demonstrates that our public native production forests are a driver for our solution to climate change and of course that makes sense on a whole range -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. I did ask if you know how long it takes for the carbon that is lost in a clearfelled and and burnt coupe to be recovered because the science is clear: it takes at least a century.

Mr ELLIS - As I mentioned, the sector of public native forestry is a net carbon sequesterer -

Ms O'CONNOR - You are not answering the question.

Mr ELLIS - and of course a growing - I will pass over to the department to add to my remarks, noting that different forest types grow at different rates. We have wet sclerophyll forests, dry sclerophyll forests - a whole range of different ecosystems and communities - and so it is not one answer, but at a broad scale, our Permanent Timber Production Zone has been, according to the latest data, net negative in terms of carbon for decades and probably beyond that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. I am not particularly interested in hearing from the agency unless it specifically answers the question I asked because it just feels like time wasting.

Mr ELLIS - Well, perhaps if you let me pass over to the agency and we will see what information we can provide.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, an answer.

Mr MORETON - Probably the only additional comment I would want to make is with regards to the question that was asked before about the future forest land, that is effectively treated like any other reserve land. Forests are in balance basically so they are treated as net neutral.