Sydney Morning Herald, 22nd September, 2008
THE fraught political battle over logging in native forests is set to be re-ignited with the former Labor premier Bob Carr writing to the Prime Minister and senior ministers arguing that protecting the forests is “fundamental” to fighting climate change.
In a letter to Mr Rudd, his Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, and the Forestry Minister, Tony Burke, Mr Carr has joined leading conservationists who want to transform state and federal forest policies in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania to protect older forests and previously logged forests.
Citing research from the Australian National University that says Australia’s eucalypt forests could hold about three times more carbon than previously thought, Mr Carr argues that rethinking forest policy is vital if Australia is going to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping carbon dioxide locked up, or “sequestrated”, in the forests will not only slow Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions but prevent the extinction of native plants and animals, the letter argues.
“Protecting our existing native forests and other vegetation is therefore fundamental to meeting any emissions reduction target. In addition, previously logged natural forests, if allowed to continue growing, will realise their carbon sequestration potential,” Mr Carr writes in a letter also signed by Peggy Figgis, the vice- chairwoman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Rick Humphries, from Greening Australia.
Mr Carr’s intervention comes at a highly charged time for the new NSW Climate Change Minister and Deputy Premier, Carmel Tebbutt, who is about to confront a fresh round of protests over logging in NSW native forests. Activists, including the former fashion designer Prue Acton, are angry that Forests NSW has approved a round of logging at Bermagui on the South Coast next month.
At a meeting last week, police told conservationists there would be a “zero tolerance” policy towards anyone attempting to stop the logging, but over the weekend activists held meetings in Bega and Bermagui, attempting to link the logging to the national climate change debate.
Ms Tebbutt defended the logging in native forests at Bermagui, saying it was part of the regional forest agreement negotiated a decade ago by the Government after input from the forestry industry and conservationists. “It is in everyone’s interest that these agreements be respected,” she said.
But Ms Tebbutt also said she would meet members of the South-East Conservation Alliance and will ask her Climate Change Advisory Council to look at the research from the Australian National University on forests and climate change. She was unaware of Mr Carr’s role.