Carbon, Forestry and the Tasmanian Brand

On face value the three words above don’t appear to be logically linked, however over coming years they will be; Tasmania’s reputation will rely on these areas working seamlessly together.

In 2019 Tasmania proudly recorded that its emissions were 1.68 megatonnes in the minus — an outstanding result across Australia and globally, and the Tasmanian Government has further committed to have net zero emission by 2030.

Figure 1- Tasmania’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

At the same time, we have a Tasmanian Agriculture Strategy to double Tasmania’s agricultural production by 2050. In 2019, agriculture accounted for 2.40 megatonnes of emissions, so by this account and even assuming good productivity and energy savings, it would still be emitting over 4.0 megatonnes, putting Tasmania back into the red.

Anyone in Tasmanian agriculture knows it is moving at breakneck pace across many commodities with record farmer incomes occurring. So in essence this growth is clear and present with unprecedented investment in machinery and processing, all of which have emissions challenges.

The big ‘offsetter’ (I may have made up a new word) is what’s poorly classified as LULUCF, Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry i.e., our active managed forestry and national parks/reserves etc.

And as many of you have taught me, it’s our active managed forests aged 15-35 years that sequester the most carbon  – not the much loved temperate rainforests which have run out of a bit of breath, despite their beauty.

And to make matters worse, many in our industry agree that a significant proportion of former MIS plantations will be converted to prime agriculture land, meaning we lose some of the state’s ‘carbon lungs’ and that LULUCF result could get worse.

So coming back to Brand Tasmania; people live and visit here for the great nature based activities, clean air, lifestyle food and wine. Our products are exported to the world using this reputation and, as we know, many people want to move here (fuelling the housing boom). This increase in people results in the production of more carbon.

Carbon Farm Forestry Tool – Ready Reckoner

Whilst the numbers above are rough and rounded anyone can see that if Tasmania continues to grow its population – and if agriculture growth continues its dramatic growth – then a significant shift needs to occur in our offsetting in order to achieve the Tasmanian Government’s 2050 targets. This is why we need to talk about managed forestry.

The good news is that Tasmania’s foresters and farmers are some of the most ingenious and productive on the planet, and we need to acknowledge that they will need support in carbon balancing their operations. Farm forestry and carbon soil sequestering are logical solutions and will in fact enhance productivity and provide a diversified revenue stream across most Tasmanian farms.

Recent Federal Government announcements support such endeavours and the Tasmania Forestry Hub and the TFFPN will soon release a Carbon Farm Forestry Tool to help farmers get a estimate of their emissions and identify the offset opportunities with forestry. It all begins with a conversation, which prompts a plan, which is then delivered; let’s just hope we are fast enough.