The decline of New Zealand’s native biodiversity presents a complex set of challenges and consequences, with far-reaching implications for our ecosystems, climate resilience, culture and prosperity. The Aotearoa Circle believes New Zealand business could be playing a greater role in protecting and regenerating the country’s native biodiversity, and sees a clear opportunity to leverage the existing mechanism of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to achieve progress at scale and at pace.
As the Government’s main tool for meeting domestic and international climate change targets, the ETS encourages the removal of carbon from the atmosphere through the planting of forests. Demands from businesses for both mandatory and voluntary carbon offset products to meet carbon reduction commitments continue to grow ensuring healthy demand, however a range of limitations, barriers and specific attributes of the scheme favour exotic forests – almost exclusively of Pinus radiata (Pine) – over biodiverse native forests.
The imbalance between natives and exotics within the ETS has implications on the regeneration and maintenance of New Zealand’s biodiversity and in some instances, soil and waterway health. As less diverse ecosystems, monoculture forests are also less resilient to climate change and plant pathogens than permanent, biodiverse native forests. Therefore, investment in exotic monocultures represents not only a lost opportunity to regenerate our native biodiversity, but it may also represent an approach that is increasing material financial risks, rather than decreasing them.
This report explores the financial gap favouring monoculture exotic forests over biodiverse native forests in New Zealand, and the incentives, policy settings and funding mechanisms required to ‘reset the balance’ by levelling the playing field for native forests.
- Extend (beyond 2020) and review the funding and grants available for native planting under the 1 Billion Tree Programme.
- Provide or subsidise native seedlings required for the establishment on native forests.
- Revisit the ETS eligibility criteria for scrubland to remove current barriers in assessing this land’s eligibility for the scheme.
- Consider opportunities to support biodiversity regeneration at scale within the Resource Management Act (or potential substitute). For example, making ‘carbon farming’ a notifiable activity to enforce criteria requiring defined levels of climate resilience and native biodiversity.