Aussie forests escape inferno, Greens rejoice

Australia’s old-growth forests will not go to the furnace to generate electricity—at least for now.

Environment watchers are rejoicing over the Parliament’s vote against subsidies intended for loggers to burn native growth forests to generate power.

A campaign against forest burning. (Design by Paul Kimbrell http://www.eastgippsland.net.au)

Tasmania’s Huon Valley Environment Centre, for one, praised the Federal MPs who voted against Lynn MP Robert Oakeshott’s motion to allow Renewable Energy Certificates to be generated by burning wood from the logging of native forest.

The Green Left described the motion as a narrow escape for the logs to avoid the blazing inferno — a vote of 72-72 with Speaker Peter Slipper casting the final ‘no’ vote to Rob Oakeshott’s motion.

A spokeswoman for the Western Australia Forest Alliance, Jess Beckerling, says it is a win for forests around the country. “It’s a really strong indication that common sense has prevailed,” she told the ABC.

In a press statement, the Huon Valley Environment Centre biomass campaigner Will Mooney also said this rejection must encourage government and businesses to search for a truly renewable energy options. He said communities across Australia will be relieved that plans for polluting native forest fuelled power stations will not be eligible to draw on incentives.

He added the vote scrapped the plan to build power station near Lonnavale in Tasmania. A 30MW power station is estimated to consume over 300,000 tonnes of timber a year.

Huon Valley Environment Centre spokesperson Jenny Weber also said the vote “backs up the concerns of conservation organisations, health advocates, scientists and community groups who have voiced a range of concerns about logging industry plans to prop up native forest logging with large scale wood-fired power stations…”

Prior to the vote, letters have been sent to the Members Of Parliament rejecting Oakeshott’s Disallowance Motion.

A Tasmanian tourist spotted this sign and posted it in a travel blog.

The Australian Forest and Climate Alliance urged the MPs to act at this critical time for the future of not only Australia’s forests, but also the climate.

The native forest logging industry is currently experiencing market driven changes that provide the opportunity to shift Australia’s wood and paper production industry onto a sustainable path, based on plantations. The opportunity to transition the forest industry at this critical time will be lost if new incentives are created that will drive ongoing native forest logging.

The disallowance motion put forward by Mr Oakeshott that would allow native forest wood ‘waste’ burnt for electricity to be eligible for Renewable Energy Certificates under the government’s Renewable Energy Target. The climate alliance cited reasons to reject disallowance motion which summarise the unfeasibility of the plan.

This motion, if passed, will create a new incentive to log Australia’s last remaining native forests, prevent the rapid transition into a viable plantation based industry.  Australia’s public native forests are much more valuable as carbon sinks, biodiversity habitats, water providers and purifiers, and as tourist destinations.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told Nine News the government was determined to provide support for bio-energy investment while also ensuring that native forests are afforded appropriate protection.

“While biomass derived from native forests though is no longer recognised under this regulation as an eligible renewable energy source … those changes do not … prohibit the use of this biomass for bio-energy.”

The vote against Oakeshott put to rest the controversial “endorsement of scientists” who argued burning forest can lead to renewable energy.

A poster purportedly designed in favour of clearfelling (Photo:Anonymous blog)

Early this month, the Port Macquarie News reported a controversial move to classify burning of native wood waste as renewable energy has received support from scientists.

It said 49 forestry scientists and practitioners signed a letter of support for a motion put forward by Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott and seconded by New England independent Tony Windsor that would see logging companies granted Renewable Energy Certificates for burning native forest residues.

Professor Rod Keenan, the director of the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research Centre at The University of Melbourne, was among the signatories, the paper reported. Keenan is said to have argued that wood waste, now burnt either in the forests or at the sawmill, was an appropriate substitute for fossil fuels.

However, the Green Left published ” Scientists’ open letter to Oakeshott: Burning forests for energy will make climate change worse.”

At Styx Forest, TAS, the diameter of an old tree can hold a number of people. (Photo: Flickr)

The green publication noted the scientists saying the ”decision to support incentives for native forest-burning power stations has alarming ramifications for communities and natural ecosystems across Australia.”

If you have any question about this article, please leave a Reply or email The Green Journo.

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