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Frequently asked questions

What is climate change and what is being done to address the resulting problems?

What are carbon credits and how are they created?

Aren't carbon credits a 'windfall' theoretical concept created by Governments?

What is a Carbon Sink?

What are the benefits of a Carbon Sink Forest?

How quickly is the World’s forest area diminishing?

Does New Zealand have Forest Sinks?

How much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere?

How long does carbon dioxide stay in the atmosphere?

How efficient is a forest in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere?

How much carbon is released by wood compared with other materials?

What are the environmental and cost benefits of emissions trading?

What effect will the NZ Governments appropriation of carbon credits have?

What is Climate Change and what has been done to address the resulting problems?
Our atmosphere contains concentrations of so called "greenhouse gases". These gases act like a blanket that keeps in some of the sun's warmth, making life on earth possible. The blanket is getting "thicker". The effect of this thicker blanket of CO2 is to trap heat closer to the Earth's surface which is expected to lead to an overall increase in temperature. In turn, this is expected to lead to changes in the Earth's climate, commonly referred to as "climate change" or "global warming." Two important international agreements deal with the threat of global climate change; the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Convention) negotiated by the world's nations in 1992, and the Kyoto Protocol, a further agreement negotiated in accordance with the Convention in 1997. The objective of these agreements is to stabilise and reduce GHG concentrations at a level that avoids dangerous human interference with the climate system. New Zealand is one of over 180 countries to have signed and ratified the Convention. Back to Top

What are carbon credits and how are they created?
A Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in Kyoto in 1997. This Kyoto Protocol establishes legally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets for developing countries. Under Article 3.3 to the Protocol a planted forest, which was established after 1 January 1990 (a Kyoto Forest )on previously cleared land, will count as a carbon sink. The carbon dioxide sequestered in such a forest can be used to create carbon credits. The Protocol proposed emissions trading would allow countries and individual companies to buy and sell carbon credits created by activities that reduce the level of GHG emissions. Back to Top

Aren’t carbon credits a ‘windfall’ theoretical concept created by Governments?
Carbon credits are not a fortuitus 'windfall' for forest owners and forestry investors. They have long recognised the potential value of carbon credits created by carbon sinks on their properties and factored this value in when making a forestry investment. However there are many examples of crops, chemicals and industrial products finding new uses with technological advances, the amount of carbon sequestered by a forest is as measurable and quantifiable as the timber harvested. Both are the owners private property right.
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What is a Carbon Sink?
Sinks are any natural or man-made systems that absorb and store greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). A growing or expanding forest is a sink. Sinks are of benefit because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere, where it would otherwise contribute to global warming Approximately 25% of the fresh weight of timber is carbon so if a forest grows at 10 cubic metres per hectare per year this would be equivalent to 10 fresh tonnes, 5 dry tonnes and 2.5 tonnes of carbon. Back to Top

What are the benefits of a Carbon Sink Forest?
Trees can be used as a sink for carbon dioxide. Increasing the amount of carbon stored in trees means that a country does not have to reduce the use of fossil fuels as much. Storing more carbon in trees whilst maintaining current emission levels would have a net effect of reducing a country’s overall emissions of carbon dioxide as is required by the Kyoto protocol. Back to Top

How quickly is the World’s forest area diminishing?
It is estimated that over 46% of the world’s old growth forest has been destroyed. In 1999 16 million hectares was lost. A World Resources Institute (WRI) report released 02 April 2002 stated that 40% of the world's forests may be wiped out in 20 years. The president of the WRI said, "As we examined what we thought were still vast, untouched stretches of intact forests in the world, we came to the conclusion that they are fast becoming a myth". The WRI found that Russia, which has the largest forests in the world, the semi arctic or boreal forest has only a quarter left undisturbed. Back to Top

Does New Zealand have Forest Sinks?
New Zealand's plantation forests planted since 1990 have significantly increased in area and the role these forests play in removing CO2 is an important component of New Zealand's climate change policy. During the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period, 2008-2012, New Zealand "Kyoto forests" are expected to remove approximately 100 million tonnes of CO2. The average new planting rate over the last 30 years has been 43,500 hectares per year. Over the period 1992 to 2000 new planting rates have been high. Over this eight-year period 520,000 hectares of forest have been established, giving an average planting rate of 65,000 hectares per year. Back to Top

How much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere?
Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere had hardly changed over hundreds of years. This was because the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere by the CO2 sinks equalled the amount released to the atmosphere from the CO2 sources. Human activity has resulted in CO2 being released from sources faster than the sinks can absorb it, so the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased. Back to Top

How long does carbon dioxide stay in the atmosphere?
All gases stay in the atmosphere for a certain length of time before they are removed by sinks. This time is known as the atmospheric lifetime of a gas. Carbon dioxide has an atmospheric lifetime of between 50 - 200 years. This means that carbon dioxide will be present in the atmosphere for at least 50 years before it is absorbed by a sink or becomes part of another chemical reaction. Consequently, carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere today could cause global warming for two centuries to come. Back to Top

How efficient is a forest in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere?
While a cubic meter of wood contains about 250 kg of carbon, a cubic meter of air contains about 0.117 grams of carbon. This means that a cubic meter of wood contains the same amount of carbon as 1.4 million cubic meters of air. Trees are not only capable of fixing carbon but also of concentrating it to an incredible extent. A forest growing at the rate of 10 m3 wood per hectare per year is absorbing the carbon from 14 million m3 of air (a column of air 1400 meters high on one hectare). The combination of photosynthesis and a tree's ability to lay down wood (cellulose and lignin) acts as a powerful concentrator of carbon from the atmosphere into a fixed form. There is no parallel human technology that is capable of performing this kind of carbon concentration. Back to Top

How much carbon is released by wood compared with other materials?
One tonne of lumber used in construction results in the release of 30 kg carbon and the storage of 250 kg carbon. One tonne of steel used in construction results in the release of 700 kg carbon and zero storage of carbon. One tonne of concrete used in construction results in the release of 50 kg carbon and zero storage of carbon. Back to Top

What are the environmental and cost benefits of emissions trading?
The KFA support the proposition that emissions trading be used in conjunction with emissions reductions to bring about a least cost approach to meeting New Zealand’s reduction in greenhouse gas commitments under the Kyoto Protocol." Back to Top

What effect will the Governments appropriation of carbon credits have?
The KFA believe the Governments appropriation of their credits lacks environmental integrity and provides little positive incentive to protect and enhance existing sinks. It removes certainty and confidence from business; particularly the implication that privately acquired assets can be expropriated by the State, without compensation. Expropriation without compensation is inconsistent with common law and will as a consequence pose a risk of significant legal liability to the Crown.
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