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State Forests of New South Wales Telephone: 1800 639 691
Facsimile: 02 6642 2129
Forests have traditionally been grown for timber, pulpwood and other wood products, but they also provide a range of environmental benefits such as soil protection and improved biodiversity, if compared with improved pasture.
A market is now developing for another environmental benefit. This benefit is the capture of carbon dioxide.
Forest growers could potentially receive income from their trees capturing such greenhouse gases, but this is dependent on a market developing for 'carbon credits'.
State Forests is at the forefront in trying to develop these markets to benefit growers and the forest industry.
Carbon Credits, or Certified Tradeable Offsets (CTO's), are recognised reductions or absorptions of carbon.
As governments work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to expand the use of greenhouse sinks such as planted forests, such actions can be registered as credits.
Credits need to be certified and recognised by a certificate owned by the individual or company who has created the greenhouse gas saving.
Over time, companies or individuals who create more certificates than they need can sell these to others who need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air.
They use this to make sugar, starch and complex molecules like cellulose and lignin, forming wood, branches, roots, leaves and bark.
About 50 per cent of a tree's dry weight is carbon. If a forest is planted on land which has already been cleared, the growth of the trees dramatically increases the total carbon stored on the land.
The original Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiated at the Earth Summit in 1992 recognised the need for target levels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions world wide.
Since then, countries have continued to negotiate the targets and ways to implement the Convention.
Last year's Kyoto Protocol was a breakthrough because it set firm targets for national level emissions.
The protocol also identified key elements in how countries could achieve those targets.
This protocol included agreement on trading in emission credits and the use of planted forests. The 2008 Australian target in greenhouse emissions is an eight per cent increase relative to 1990 levels.
Planted forests are one component of this solution. Others include increased energy efficiency, reduced energy demand, better transport and the use of green energy.
Planted forests are profitable. When combined with the new role of carbon capture (sequestration), planted forests can be an economically attractive way to address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Planting 100,000 hectares of new forest can remove one million tones of carbon per year from the atmosphere.
Trading emissions will be international.
In the case of planted forests, Australia could be a world leader.
We will have the opportunity to establish one million hectares or more of new plantation in coming years.
It is likely companies and governments in Europe, Japan and North America will look to Australia as a place where carbon credits can be developed for international use. Emissions trading could be a totally new export for Australia.
Carbon credits will commence in 2008. Australia's carbon emitters such as power generators should not wait for international emission trading to commence.
Rules for trading in greenhouse gas credits are not yet agreed, but international dialogues are under way to develop a workable system and rules for trading in emissions credits are being established.
The forests planted for this purpose will be harvested for wood products as they are demanded by the community and can be replanted.
Hence, recognised carbon storage will be based on an entire estate, which could comprise individual plantations at several stages of development.
In addition, harvesting of plantations can further contribute to greenhouse gas reduction if some of the wood is used to generate electricity and replaces fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas for this purpose.
Finally, when trees are used for wood products, carbon continues to be stored in this form.
The amount of carbon captured by trees is estimated from the volume of the trees, calculated from the heights and diameters.
The tree volume is then converted to tonnes of dry wood. The weight of dry wood is then divided into the weight of carbon and other elements such as hydrogen and oxygen.
For example, a fast-growing eucalypt plantation averaging a stem growth rate of 20 cubic metres of wood per hectare may yield 500kg of dry wood per cubic metre, that is 10 tonnes per hectare and contain 50 per cent carbon, that is 5 tonnes per hectare of carbon in one year.
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:email@example.com
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originally created by:GK; latest update 6 June 1999 by: RF