Private forestry operators will gain access to the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund, under a federal government proposal to reduce carbon emissions, boost regional jobs and support investment in the sector.
The government will simplify access to carbon funding for new forestry projects in five regional forestry hubs, including communities hard hit by last summer’s bushfires, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor says.
This will enable the forestry sector to participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).
Previously, the scheme’s regulations required plantation projects to buy water entitlements to offset the loss of rainfall run-off trapped by the new trees.
“Reducing red tape for projects located in the five Regional Forestry Hubs will support regional jobs and investment, including in communities hard hit by last summer’s bushfires,” Mr Taylor said.
“This will make it easier for the private sector to invest in new Australian forestry projects, supporting jobs and reducing emissions.”
The ERF has committed $1.9 billion to projects in regional and rural areas since 2014, with more funding available through the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund.
The government says that through the CSF, it is targeting “dollar-for-dollar co-investment to drive $4 billion of investment in emissions reduction projects across Australia”.
AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said that while it has always been possible for farmers and landowners to gain carbon credits for planting trees for environmental uses, it would now also be possible to bid for credits for production trees which will be processed into renewable products, and the area replanted.
“This is acknowledgment that half the mass of the tree is carbon which continues to be stored in the fibre-based products which are produced from the logs; from house frames to packaging,” he said.
“This welcome announcement also represents the Morrison Government making real its delivery of its ‘National Forest Industries Plan’ with its goal of planting another billion production trees by 2030.”
Barker MP Tony Pasin, whose electorate covers the Green Triangle, said there was plenty of demand with more than 900 million cubic metres of sawn softwood imported to Australia annually.
“The forestry industry has said for a long time that the previous regulations had been an impediment to plantation expansion,” he said.
“The industry already employs over 10,000 people in SA, more than 7000 of these are in the South East within the Green Triangle Hub area.
“It’s a big employer but it has the potential to grow.”
Major paper manufacturer Visy has described the decision as a “triple win” for the economy, the environment and the community.
“This important rule change is welcome news to Visy, Australia’s Forestry Industry and the 55,000 jobs it supports because it means new plantations, new investment and most importantly new jobs in regional forestry areas,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“The plan calls for establishing an initial footprint of new plantations of more than 20 million trees requiring an investment of over $200 million with scope for further investment beyond that.”
The initial locations are southwest Western Australia, the ‘Green Triangle’ of South Australia, north/northwest Tasmania, and the northeast and southwest slopes of NSW.
The government will also slash red tape for projects in five pilot regional forestry hubs in the NSW and Victorian South West Slopes, Western Australia’s southwest, South Australia’s Green Triangle, the NSW northeast and northern Tasmania.
It is understood that the government is considering adding future forestry hubs, including Victoria’s Green Triangle, which can manage water impacts associated with plantation projects.
Under previous rules, plantation forestry and farm forestry projects in high-rainfall areas were largely excluded from the ERF. The change will allow businesses to earn Australian carbon credit units through new forestry plantations.