Green Party plans to dump the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and replace it with a revenue neutral carbon tax have been praised by the NZ Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA) in a reversal of support for the scheme.
Association president Dean Satchell, of Kerikeri, said government meddling in the scheme had reversed any positive environmental outcomes such as controlling emissions and encouraging sustainable land use.
"By sheltering farming from the ETS, the taxpayer artificially props up agricultural land values, leading to unrealistic expectations for profitable land use because farmers are not facing the real cost of emissions they produce," he said.
"At the same time, foresters have lost property rights and had no benefits from the ETS. We require a level playing field."
Mr Satchell described the ETS as "a lot of hot air" with the Government allowing the importation of cheap dubious overseas carbon credits so energy intensive industries could meet their obligations at almost no cost.
"The price dropped from about $20 to less than $2 a unit and has deflated the whole scheme."
Mr Satchell said the association believed a lot of farming land was more suited to forestry.
"We want government support to encourage planting because the benefits accrue to everyone," he said in support of a Green Party proposal to consider planting 50,000ha of permanent pine forest annually from now until 2030.
The Green Party climate policy, launched last week, calls for a 40 per cent reduction of gross greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 level by 2030.
Seven sectors where reductions in emissions needed to be made were identified, with forestry 14 per cent of this target. They are: electricity, transport, waste, other burning of fossil fuels, industrial processes, agriculture and forestry.
The policy calls for:
-The disbanding of the ETS and the implementation of a revenue neutral carbon tax. The association suggests the switch would have to ensure foresters who entered the ETS scheme in good faith were not disadvantaged.
-The setting up of an independent Climate Commission, which would increase the carbon price over time.
-The policy recognises forestry is acting as a short-term carbon sink, but which when harvested over the next 15 years will become a liability if not replaced. It proposes reducing deforestation and conversion of existing forestry land, where a strong carbon price is necessary to constrain dairy expansion in a carbon-constrained economy.
-The policy suggests either planting 50,000ha of permanent pine forest annually from now until 2030, or 100,000 of harvestable pine forest.
-The policy would incentivise the removal of livestock through the Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS) and the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI).
-The strengthening of the National Environmental Standard for Forestry Plantations, "to protect areas of indigenous vegetation from being overplanted with exotics, strengthen sustainable forest practice, incentivise planting in native tree species, and incentivise the planting of appropriate places with Pinus radiata and other exotic species".