Government push to boost forestry jobs, harvesting the ‘ultimate renewable resource’

By Melissa Coade

October 26, 2021

Nationals member for Gippsland Darren Chester. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

A simplified process to access government carbon funding under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) will mean more jobs for plantation and farm forestry projects across four growth areas in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia.

Last Thursday, the federal government said that changes it made to simplify the process for plantation and farm forestry projects in July last year would be expanded from one to four regions including Tasmania, in Gippsland and the Green Triangle in Victoria, and Kangaroo Island in SA. 

On Tuesday, industry, energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor said in a statement that the initiative would help Australia ‘meet and beat’ its emissions reduction targets while growing a strong economy. His comments harkened back to an opinion piece prime minister Scott Morrison penned that same day, which said Australia’s climate change plan would be ‘balanced’ to ensure regional and rural Australia were protected from any negative economic impact. 

Taylor explained that a sustainable forestry industry in Australia was an important source of offsets according to the government’s plan for the next 30 years. 

“It’s important to recognise that our goal is net zero, not absolute zero emissions,” Taylor said.

“While technology will bring down emissions across many sectors, there will still be greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 and beyond.

“That’s why the government is focused on expanding the supply of low cost, high integrity offsets available under the Emissions Reduction Fund, through soil carbon, forestry and other initiatives,” he said.

By Tuesday afternoon, the PM had unveiled the government’s plan to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. It included a permanent ‘safeguard’ mechanism to ensure that the plan was periodically reviewed and no firm plan about how to transition Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels to other energy sources. The tag-line the government is using to spruik its climate change plan is making ‘net zero practically achievable’.

Taylor said that by expanding the supply of low-cost carbon offsets, Australian businesses and individuals were being given the choice to make offsets where they felt it ‘made sense for them to do so’. The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) would also soon start consultation on a new plantation forestry method, he said, which aimed to simplify access to carbon funding for forestry projects further. 

“Since 2014, the ERF has committed $2.2 billion to projects in regional and rural areas, with more funding available through the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund,” Taylor said. 

Jonno Duniam, the government’s assistant minister for forestry and fisheries said the expanded ERF was part of an agenda to grow the plantation estate and support more forestry jobs. He described timber as being ‘the ultimate renewable resource’ — meaning that in the government’s view, the forestry sector represented a ‘low-cost carbon abatement’ opportunity.

“[Forestry] is productive, and delivers an economic return to the investor,” Duniam said.

“Opening up these new regions will give foresters an additional revenue stream option, increase returns and incentivise investment in new plantation development.

“Unlocking key forestry regions for ERF participation is a key component of our National Forest Industries Plan, and we are delivering.”

According to the government, the regulator that manages the fund is expecting a record 17 million tonnes of abatement to be credited in 2021. This year, the ERF issued 100 million carbon credits, which made it one of the world’s largest offset schemes.

Trade minister Dan Tehan, who is also the federal MP  for Wannon, said it was ‘fantastic’ that the proud history of timber production in the region was being recognised. He also claimed that sustainable forestry had been ‘bringing down emissions for decades’.

Gippsland MP Darren Chester added that his region also shared a proud history of timber production.

“I look forward to working with Gippslanders and the federal government to deliver local benefits under this program,” Chester said.  

The revised federal rules for specific plantation and forestry projects have come about following consultation with the Victorian government, farm and plantation industries and other stakeholders, and are in line with recommendations of the 2020 expert panel report on additional sources of low-cost abatement.

The federal government said it would consider future forestry hubs on a case-by-case basis, and subject to water management arrangements. All ERF projects are also expected to continue meeting relevant state or territory government rules and regulations. 

The initial locations covered by the ERF last July included South West (Western Australia), Green Triangle (South Australia), North/North West (Tasmania), North East (New South Wales) and the South West Slopes (New South Wales and Victoria). These areas have now been expanded to cover most of Tasmania, Gippsland (Victoria), the Green Triangle (Victoria) and Kangaroo Island (South Australia).


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