Forest protection could deliver carbon credit boom for south-west

With the introduction of a carbon price, WA's peak environment and forest conservation groups are calling on the State Government to support the development of a lucrative new industry in carbon credits from avoided logging in south-west forests.

WA Forest Alliance spokesperson Jess Beckerling said, “Native forests make an enormous contribution to reducing carbon pollution and now that we have a price on carbon, protecting our forests represents a major financial opportunity for WA.

“South-west communities have not benefited from the mining boom in the north, but with a price on carbon the south-west could have its own carbon credit boom.”

To date, the State Government has refused to assess the carbon values of forests, however a report on Tasmanian forests by the Australian National Universityi has found that if logging were to cease, over a billion dollars worth of carbon credits could be generated in the next decade.

Conservation Council of WA Director Piers Verstegen said, “With the next Forest Management Plan currently under development we have the opportunity to transform the way our south-west forests are managed. We can turn a loss-making logging industry that is pushing endangered species closer to extinction into a profitable carbon credit industry that protects our forests and the animals that rely upon them.

“Trees are made of carbon - they are the best technology we have for taking pollution out of the atmosphere. When we destroy forests through logging and burning, massive natural stores of carbon are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. It takes centuries for re-growth forests to rebuild these natural carbon stores after logging.”

The State Government has recently commissioned an economic and social impact assessment for the next Forest Management Plan. However this study explicitly excludes any examination of the huge potential economic opportunity of selling carbon credits.

“At present we are destroying ancient jarrah trees and selling the timber as firewood for as little as $9 a tonne,” said Mr Verstegen, “If our native forests were left standing, we could be attracting a carbon price of $26 per tonne while also preventing the extinction of WA’s threatened wildlife.”

Ms Beckerling said, “We call upon the State Government to embrace the economic opportunities that will exist in a clean energy economy, including the value of carbon credits generated by south-west forests protected from logging.

“We can't log profitably but we can profit from not logging. It's a no brainer.”

For further comment:

Jess Beckerling 0488 777 592

Piers Verstegen CCWA

Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement: An assessment of its carbon value, ANU Centre for Climate Law and Policy, March 2012 http://www.environment.gov.au/land/forests/independent-verification/pubs/ivg_conservation_8a_carbon.pdf