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CarbonCurious Webinar Transcript: What is climate smart forestry?



Nick

All right, we've just gone 12.30pm on my watch. We've still got quite a few people trickling in, but I think we've got a huge session today for a lot to cover depending on how much Jamie and I talk, which with past experience as a guide is probably going to be a lot. So I'm actually going to get started now and I'm sure people will be able to pick up the thread as they join.


So welcome to Carbon Curious. Today we are talking about How we get climate smart forests and kind of as a, as a related factor, why we would want to get climate smart forests and why they're good compared to the alternative, which we'll cover shortly. I'm Nick Butcher. I'm a co founder and CTO and acting CEO at CarbonCorp.


And today I'm very happy to have with me, Jamie Heather, who's the managing director of Redwood Carbon and also Does other interesting things with software development and grows trees. Jamie, thanks for joining.  


Jamie

Thank you, Nick. Good summary.  


Nick

Feel free to elaborate. The carbon criticals, the other, other part of your occupation, right?

Which is quite broad in scope, but carbon related. 


Jamie

It is. Yeah. My interests are kind of split between planting trees and redwoods particularly. And yeah, trying to look for tech solutions to help tackle the problem of reducing emissions and tackling climate change.  


Nick

Awesome. Those are all valuable things. 


I applaud it. As usual, we have a Q& A function in the session. We got an enormous quantity of questions ahead of this. We are only going to be able to have time to cover a small fraction of them as it is, but please do submit those further. Some of them, if they're especially relevant, we'll prioritise them.


And we will try and follow up all of those that we don't get to directly afterwards.  When Jamie and I were kind of doing the prep for this and we said, so we're talking about climate smart forestry. I think the first thing that we felt we needed to agree, was what climate smart forestry even is. And this is a sort of relatively generic definition from somewhere on the internet.


I think it's a composite of different sources, but it kind of outlines a couple of different areas. Yeah.  Climate smart forestry is forestry that reduces carbon emissions versus I guess the status quo of no forestry at all or climate dumb forestry, increases resilience to climate change, I think this is a particularly important one because forestry is inherently a quite long time duration activity, the climate will change over the lifetime of forests based on current projections, so you're planting not just for today but for the future, and then this one here felt a little, a little more holistic to me in terms of climate Smartness of it supports forest economies, but I think it does. 


Touch on one of the key elements of if you want to do something climate smart, you better make sure it's viable. Like is there's no end of climate change solutions that are wildly aspirational and really kind of admirable, but which you can't do because they, they don't pay for themselves or nobody else can pay for them or some combination of those factors.


So we're going to try and talk through today a little bit of what these things actually look like in practice and also what they don't look like in practice. And we're going to start with Jamie talking us through a little bit of his project. So this is, I don't know if it's got, has it got an actual name, Jamie?


This is the Ground Zero for Redwood Carbon, right? 


Jamie

Yeah, the property goes under the dubious name of Humphreys Bush, because it happens to be near a Humphreys Road. So yeah, this is Humphreys Bush, which is a 163 hectare property in Northland close to Broadwood. So kind of almost as far north as you can drive, about four and a half.


Hours drive north of Auckland  and this was a property that some friends of mine Peter and Prue acquired in the middle of the COVID lockdown actually. They were, when most of us were just hiding at home and wondering how we're going to do our day jobs and look after the kids, Peter and Prue bought this property and it's a beautiful property with rolling hills and lots of tall native trees, native bush.


In fact about half the property is covered in Native forest and it's beautiful forest. But it also has a lot of damage in the understory due to grazing animals wild cattle pigs possums destroying the canopies. So there are a lot of really beautiful tall trees, species in there, Rimu, Kahika, there's even some Kauri. 


A real mix of, of lots of different tall tree species. But generally…. 


Nick

Was the rest of the property grazed and unfenced at the time that you, or that your friends, took ownership? 


Jamie

There's a boundary fence. That's kind of in a not a great state running around the perimeter of the property.


There are five big paddocks and each one of those has fences of varying quality. But in general the fence was in a bit of a state of disrepair and yes, it was used for beef grazing and Peter and Prue had a local farmer that was leasing the land from them. But they found the proceeds from beef farming on this farm barely covered the cost of running it.


So it's kind of a, a kind of landlocked, failing beef farm and in that area of Northland, a lot of the surrounding properties have already been converted into pine forests and I guess 


Nick 

As we can see on the boundary here, I guess, is that Pine to the east and west. 


Jamie


That's right. 


Jamie 


East to west, depending on whether I oriented this map properly.


Yes. I'm not sure. Yeah. Yeah. 


Jamie

No, you nailed it. That's right. 


Nick

Cool. 


Jamie

But Peter and Prue didn't really want to just convert it to pine trees. So we got talking about other possibilities for what could happen on this block.  


Nick

And you arrived at one in particular, which I think you've gone ahead with now. What did you decide to do and what were the motivations behind it?  


Jamie

Yeah, well we ended up planting redwoods across the paddocks, existing paddocks and in total now over the last two winters, we've planted 48, 000 coast redwoods. Trees with the help of Simon Rapley from the NZ Redwood Company and the, the plan is to to grow those redwoods and eventually collect carbon from from those trees through the ETS and at the same time, do what we can to try and get the pests out of the the native bush to allow that forest to recover and become more like the kind of rich native forest that it really should be but that it isn't at the moment. 


Nick

What's the sort of relationship between those two activities, because I guess there would have been other pathways you considered, such as just retire the land, allow it to do  whatever it was going to do anyway in the absence of stock and grazing or, or actively planting native species. Clearly, you've, you've invested a whole bunch of time and energy along with your friends and, and a big block of native forest.


You're, you're not a native tree hater. What pushed you towards redwoods compared to those alternatives?  


Jamie

I guess in my research for ways that we can effectively tackle climate change in New Zealand redwoods just came up as a really incredible species that I think just has about everything you could possibly want going for it in terms of a climate smart forest for the future.


So I was, you know, very keen and Peter and Prue also were interested in different species other than pine, radiata pine. But we did look at planting natives as well. And I guess for me, this property was the start of really a deep dive into, okay, what would it be involved in establishing natives for real on a property.


And it was investigating options there. Through the course of that, I discovered that planting pines generally is quite expensive.  Most people have done it.  Oh, sorry, natives. Sorry. Yes.  Yeah. People are expensive as it turns out, but yeah, it's a relative thing.  


Well, I was told to expect 20,000 to 30,000 a hectare to establish native trees.


And of course the growth rates in the first few decades are comparatively slow, which means you're waiting for a long time for any kind of payoff on that investment.  And we got as far as calling a few local native tree nurseries and they kind of asked a few questions about the land and said, you know, do you have any cover there at the moment?


We said, no, it's mostly bare paddock. And they said, well, okay, cover it in a Manuka forest and then come back to us in 10 years. And we'll have a chat about what native tree species you know, successional tree species you could plant. And it kind of really, that conversation really kind of drove home to me that if you're planting natives, then you're, you're in it for  the long run.


It's a bit of a grind, I think.  


Nick

Was that motivated by  the local microclimate that the native future canopy species would need to survive on the site? That was sort of created a Manuka nursery crop?  


Jamie

So, yeah, there are but there are some species that we definitely could have just planted straight into the open paddocks.


We've got some areas of wetland on the farm where there are already Kahikatea growing really well. and there's a Totora would have probably, you know, we could probably get a bit of that established but in general, most native tree species they do need some kind of initial cover nursery crop to get them going.


They are successional species and most of them, you just can't go out and just plant them into a field of grass and come back in, you know, 10, 20 years and find a forest there.  


Nick

Yeah, you'll find a lot of old desiccated tree stems more likely. Yeah, I will say that the The figure that you mentioned of 20 to 30, 000 a hectare is is one that we've heard It's not one that we consider to be representative of what you could achieve with optimal methods at large scale It's kind of it's a number that comes from like riparian planting or like small scale amenity planting and stuff So but I think your core point remains that it is very expensive and you keep relatively low yield So there's like a high cost and a high opportunity cost plus you have to be very careful to ensure actual survival.


So I guess the question is should we do this elsewhere? You obviously thought it through very carefully and chose to do it here. But does it, does it make sense more broadly? Is it climate smart? And why should we care? And I would say that one of the reasons that we should care is because Doing things that are climate smart are inherently ambitious because if we just kind of dither around and fiddle while Rome burns, Rome will burn.


Climate smart to me means many things, but one of those is change at large scale. And it's, I find, very hard to have a sensible conversation around any of this, unless you define some sort of  aspiration to then at least debate. And the one that we've been working to comes from a couple of different reports over the last few years of, and various people suggesting goals of like, do we want to do nothing?


Probably not. Do we want to convert all of New Zealand into forest? Probably not. There's, there's somewhere in between those two. And a good starting point is  there's this rough figure of 2 million hectares of erosion prone marginal land on private land in New Zealand at the moment. That is not land that has high value at present by anyone's assessment.


And it is land that could probably be converted to forest, and it's a lot of forest, like you look here at the breakdown of forest in New Zealand, we'd be increasing our forestry estate by roughly 20%, and we would be doubling our sort of  active intervention man produced forest, for want of a better word, like the, of our current 10 million hectares, roughly 8 million hectares of that is,  largely existing native forest, historic native forest, and largely on public land. 


We're talking about doubling the deliberately created forest on private land. If we can do that, we've got to make sure that we like doing it once is expensive doing it more than once would be wildly expensive so we should try and get it right the first time and we find it smart is probably for us that we're happy to have created 100 years from now when we're looking back and go, did us or our parents or grandparents did they make good decisions when they were figuring this thing back out in 2024.


Is there any I mean before I jump onto that, was there anything you want to add in there? 


Jamie

No, great summary. 


I guess I need to mention that 2 million hectares, of course, is quite diverse. A lot of it erosion prone so some careful choices species and planting regimes required.


But in general, I think we're talking about the least marginal farmland, the least productive land that we have in New Zealand. So retiring it doesn't necessarily mean any reduction in agricultural output if it's done in a smart way, I believe. 


Nick

Or potentially even an increase depending on the co benefits that you get.


And, and I'd also say that I'm sure there are some perfectly good farmland caught up in that coarse two million hectare assessment based on some LUC boundary. Like when we find that stuff, let's just not plant it. When I think that there may come a time where we want to start planting more trees on high value farmland, but it would be a very dumb idea to start with that.


Like we should start with the low value stuff, which is like it's best purposes retirement. And so when these discussions start, and we start talking about what climate forestry looks like, this is how the debate often goes, at least when I'm involved, is that there's two groups, and they're fairly polarised ends of the spectrum, and they both see the other's position as borderline unethical.


So either you're, you're keen on native forest and you think that pines are awful and that there's like no good shall come of them and we're doing all the wrong things or you're on the other side and you think that natives are lovely in principle but they don't work in practice and that people  accusations start getting thrown back and forth and it ends up just turning into  out group who I don't agree with sucks and the conversation struggles to progress from there and  unfortunately  I suspect that as we'll sort of discover as we go through that the optimal point is somewhere in between those two positions.


But as long as you've got two entrenched extremes, you're much less likely to find it. And so when we were prepping last week we were talking about what's climate smart forestry and decided to begin with, what's, what's climate awful forestry? Because ironically, it's sort of easier to get people to agree on what they think is terrible rather than what they think is good.


Because there's, you're sort of defining something that you're not going to do. So you don't have to make quite the same trade offs. Before I, before I jump to the next. One Jamie, when you were, when you were planting your redwood forest, what were the things that you were keen to avoid? Like what, what would awful look like from your perspective? 


Jamie

I guess certainly anything that doesn't sequester a lot of carbon. We wanted something that was effective at capturing carbon, but we also became aware that biodiversity isn't very entwined with carbon and an equally serious problem that the world and New Zealand needs to deal with. So for us, it was, you know, can we, yeah, let's capture carbon and let's do it, well, better.


But also let's respect the rest of the environment and try and create an environment the biodiversity can flourish in as well and create a forest that the people will want. I think you nailed it in the slide where you said something that people will want in 100 years. I think that should really be our guiding principle.


Will future generations of Kiwis be grateful for what we're handing over to them? Or are we just creating a massive liability and headache  for them to deal with down the line? And I think avoiding that at all costs is the biggest priority really.  


Nick

Yeah, and there's a lot of elements to that, I guess. Like, this was the sort of list that we came up with, brainstorming it a bit, it would be a bad thing if we got 2 million hectares of forest that we can't afford.


Like, well, that's an interesting one, because the issue there is if we choose a pathway we can't afford, we won't get 2 million hectares of forest in the next 10 or 15 years. I mean, it's, it's wildly ambitious, even if we do everything right. If we pick an option that costs 30, That's not a thing that's going to happen.


That's 60 billion dollars. Ignoring the fact that that's probably a bit on the high side. If it all dies, it's also not a good solution. You don't get a lot of carbon captured with trees that didn't survive. If it doesn't store enough carbon, or it stores carbon too slow, which we'll come to later, speed is really of the essence here.


Climate change is not a thing where achieving an outcome in 300 years is the same as achieving it in 30 years. We want fast results. We also don't want it burning down. I mean, all of this is The first four are really just things which, like, it doesn't achieve the carbon capture that we want to and do it durably.


The last one is the sort of almost orthogonal dimension of it achieves a lot of carbon, but it does it in a way that has consequences that we don't like, and we'll, we'll look at some of those. 


Jamie

Just thinking, Nick, a big one we missed on that list, of course, was invasive, the wilding conifer problem. 


Nick

Oh, yes, yes.


Jamie

Really worried about, we need our trees not to spread over the countryside, invading other native ecosystems and causing problems, which we do have at the moment in New Zealand. And that is a, you know, one of the biggest objections that lots of people have about forestry in general.  


Nick

Very good point and I guess related, leads to erosion.


It's not resilient. It blows over in a storm. It's exposed to pest activity for various reasons, whether that's because it's exotic or otherwise. So  a quick starting group. So I showed my hand there. Jamie, can exotic forest be climate awful? Is it, is it theoretically possible?  


Jamie

Well, it definitely can be yes.


And I guess the stereotypical example that a lot of people are concerned about the idea of a pine forest, a plantation that someone plants and just walks away from and they collect the carbon credits for, you know, 20, 30 years, however long they can. And then ultimately at the point where that pine forest is starting to become older and developing climate. Developing some health problems as we all do in old age and actually needs a lot of maintenance to avoid becoming a big problem.


You know, those people are gone, they might be dead and someone else has to deal with that. Of course, Radiarsa doesn't live for a long time generally between 100 and 150 years and it's a fire tolerant pioneering species that in the, in nature, in the countries it comes from, it propagates by invading an area, quickly growing up faster than anything else into a dense forest and then when the neighbouring bit, patch of pine dies, it grows back.


So it's a species that is not, you know, arguably not well adapted for long term forestry in New Zealand.  And I think a lot of people are worried about these ageing pine forests full of dead wood and becoming, you know, major fire hazards and a problem for future taxpayers.  


Nick

And I guess, particularly in an example like this one, it's also even while it's standing and while it is storing carbon, which, you know, fair enough, pines do grow very well and they do store a lot of carbon.


It's like, do you get co benefits or co detriments associated with that? Like this forest in particular has a pretty good Bleak understory. This is not what we'd call a biodiverse environment, like your, your canopy species is one thing. A lot of the biodiversity actually comes below the canopy, so it's not so much the trees you pick for your canopy, but the, the understory that they enable.


And I will just say here, I'm not saying that this is necessarily a lock up and leave pine forest. If somebody recognizes this forest and it's their dearly cared for forest, there does actually seem to be some evidence pruning there and other things. I found it hard to find a suitable photo. So this is, it's more like a bogeyman rather than a perfect example.



Jamie

I think also Nick, we should be careful about bashing pine foresters because amazingly, I was just blown away when I discovered this, but due to an expansion of pine forestry that happened back in the nineties, our pine 20 and 30 million tons of carbon dioxide every year for the last three decades or so.


Which is enormous that, you know, that's getting on for a third of our national emissions. 

Nick

Yeah. And that's from 2 million hectares. Like if we doubled that area, we could potentially neutralise most of our current emissions. And a lot of people are actually concerned about that because they feel like it disincentivizes us to take gross emissions reductions.


But yes, I am not a pine tree hater. I'm in the process of looking at building a house. I would love it if timber prices came down slightly. Pine is a fantastic species, well managed. It's a great thing. The question here is more about. Do we want pine planted in the wrong place, under the wrong management regime, for another 2 million hectares?


Not, is pine a bad thing? It is plainly a good thing for our country on multiple dimensions, including export revenue and climate change mitigation. So, yeah, thanks for making that very clear. That said,  some of the lockup and leave pine forest, I don't think is something that anybody other than the purely commercially motivated perhaps are advocates of.


And there has been a little bit of an attempted rebrand of this, which in some cases I think is totally legitimate and others is somewhat disingenuous. And that's the lockup and leave transitional pine forest. And we're going to show some examples of positive transitional forestry. But  I, well, I'll say my view and then I'll leave you to tell yours, Jamie, like, my concern is that there is some efforts to basically frame high density radiata unmanaged plantings as just a ‘fait accompli’ that they'll transition in time to high biodiversity native forest, essentially as a method to gain social licence for lock up and leave carbon forestry. And that there, if that practice is going to be encouraged in any form, there should be pretty serious controls put on what actually is required to happen and what funds need to be set aside to ensure transition occurs and what environments are suitable and what species and what planting regimes are suitable.


Do you want to expand on that, Jamie?  


Nick

Yeah, I guess I'm also a little bit sceptical or wary about it. I think the it's a nice idea that we can just kick the can down the road and we'll deal with this problem of transitioning these forests later on. But almost certainly transitioning from a predominantly pine forest to predominantly native will involve a loss of carbon at least temporarily.


And it's not entirely clear about how that's accounted for who has the. Deal with that. And I think it's not clear to me how or why people will be incentivized to make this probably quite expensive transition likely at a time when there are no carbon credits to be gained. So yeah, it's an impulsion to do so.


Nick

Yeah. Yep, that's right. 


Jamie

And I think last year or earlier this year, last year, sorry the government we had, there was a consultation out from MPI which was trying to kind of address some of these practical issues around transitional pine forests and how that would look in practice.


And I think some of the questions along the lines of what happens if there's still a pine forest. You know, a exotic tree left or, or if exotic trees, you know, still reemerge in this transition in the forest, or how do we get it to complete, you know, from entirely pine to entirely native in a 50 year timeframe.


I think a lot of the questions that were being asked around that kind of revealed that, you know, there were the wrong questions really. If this transition is going to happen, it will need to happen over centuries and, you know, we need to give time for nature to do its thing.  


Nick

Yep. Agreed.  So this is, I probably should have just dropped this graph.


It wasn't thought through enough, but essentially I think what it highlights the discussion so far is that we're trying to optimise on multiple different dimensions on multiple frontiers over a long period, the solutions that we're likely to end up with probably aren't perfect. Like we know what terrible looks like.


We know what perfect looks like. You'll note that I've not put names next to option one or option two, because I think it's controversial as to. Which combination of species and planting regimes they would be and it's probably environment specific and kind of application specific as well. But we're probably trying to choose something that's a trade off.


And so I guess follow up to the earlier question, which will hopefully get us a little, a little bit back on side with the forestry industries. Are there climate smart versions of exotic forest like it? I mean, obviously you've planted one, I think.  


Jamie

That's right. I certainly think there can be.


And I, I think the key for this discussion is getting away from is it a native tree or is it an exotic tree? And moving it towards, you know, what actually matters. You had some on your chart there. You know, what are the things that we care about? And in most cases, we all agree in a fairly clear on, on what matters.


What we'd rather not have you know, we don't want fire liabilities. We want forests that are resilient to a changing climate. We would like our forests to remain productive if they can we'd like them to capture carbon, but also support biodiversity. And I think when we talk in terms of the things we're looking for, then this whole conversation becomes a lot easier to progress and start to find agreement and areas of common interest and support.


Now that you say that, 


Nick

I just realised I've left biodiversity off my nine axis. Sorry, I did this late at night. I do care about biodiversity.  


Jamie

Yeah, well, there's lots of different factors. And you know, we could probably come up with twice as many as you had on your graph there, if we put our heads together.


But I think exotic in New Zealand, for some reason in forestry, exotic is this kind of dirty word, which carries a lot of connotations. Most people wouldn't have this sense that native trees are better. But normally the concerns relate to things like disease, fire risk monocultures, clear fell harvest, a lot of people that don't like you know, pine forest, you know, the reasons that they don't actually like clear fell forestry.


That method is very destructive. Or they don't like the wild and conifers are invading the landscape. So you know, invasiveness is something that should be on our list of, of things we should consider. And I think once we, once we start to focus on you know, what we want rather than our conceptions or misconceptions, then that's where we can make a lot of progress.


Nick

Yep. So on that, I, because I think anytime anybody in the forestry sector tries to make the case that, Exotic forest can be climate smart or can lead to biodiversity. They're basically assumed to have been captured by commercial interests and that they're basically just trying to come up with a story to justify what they're like.


And so there's two examples that I had here that I'm keen to just share with everybody to show that that's not already the case. Oh, sorry. That's not always the case. I mean that there are genuine examples where it can be the best option, not just like a trade off between difficult commercial compromises.


One of these is Milnthorpe Forest, which is just next to the Parapara Estuary in Golden Bay. And what you see here are fairly mature gum trees with a fairly dense regenerating native understory. And the history of this place is super interesting. So it's basically a forest established on sand dunes, or, or, close to sand dunes, like very, very sandy land.


I don't know the exact area. I'd say it's probably on the order of 10 hectares or similar, but the history of it is that it was bought by someone who had a strong philosophical interest in restoring native forest on this area. And they bought the land, cleared the land, planted natives across it at vast expense.


And then within five years, they're basically all dead because it was just such a harsh environment. And even had they survived, they would be unlikely to achieve particularly high carbon stock. So we're already making the sacrifice of speed of sequestration and maximum sequestration,  which is important for climate change mitigation.


But the key point is that despite taking all this care and effort, The trees didn't even make it to a lower carbon sequestration rate, they just died. So as a second stage, being fully motivated by environmental considerations, they planted a whole heap of eucalypts across the area. These thrived, like they, they grew very quickly, they tolerated the soil well, and they created this sort of local understory environment that was extremely conducive to the establishment of native forests, because there's significant native seed sources in the area, The eucalypts brought in birdlife the birdlife brought in seeds with them, and there was also follow up native enrichment planting in the understory.


If you go there today, you find this forest which is absolutely beautiful to walk through. It's full of birds, it's full of natives, and it's also full of carbon being stored resiliently in these massive eucalypts. So for me, it's like, It's a long trip to get to Golden Bay. It's a really nice place to visit.


I think it's a great example of climate smart transitional forestry proven to work at least in one case and a template that could be applied elsewhere. I'm not saying it's universally applicable, like for some environments this would probably be a terrible combination of species, but it worked very well here. 


There's a second one which I'll leave you to speak to, Jamie, given that it includes things dear to your heart.  


Jamie

Yeah, well, this is the famous Redwood Grove at Whakarioriwa forest in Rotorua. So this is I think it's about six hectares, the Redwood Grove. It was planted over a hundred years ago.


A kind of early experiment in planting exotic trees in New Zealand. And obviously it's flourished. These trees they're a hundred years old. They're currently at a density of, I think, about 140 odd stems per hectare. So relatively, relatively small. You know, spaced apart. And in that space, that's a great opportunity for native trees to flourish.


You can see the ferns are doing very well here. There are other parts of the Redwood Grove where you can find Rimu and other tall successional species emerging. And it's just a wonderful environment that attracts, I think, it's in millions of people a year, I believe, go to visit the, the Redwood Grove and be amongst those enormous trees and a fantastic haven for biodiversity especially in the, the canopy so And the other thing I think that's really amazing is despite being 100 years old, it's still capturing carbon at a rate of about 20 tons per hectare per year, according to the, the panel boards on the, on the walk.


I've done that tree top walk and they have some information about the carbon benefits to that forest.  And those trees will go on, you know, Redwoods can live for thousands of years. So that forest will still be there in a thousand years from now. It will still be a fantastic mix and a place that people will have to visit.


Nick

I'm sure.  


Remind me, do redwoods grow in shade?  So they can like, self seed? Or, so it's interesting that there's such a rich like, tree fern understory, despite that. What, what are the factors in that? Is it being suppressed? Or they're like, pulling out the redwoods when they self seed?  


Jamie

They, I guess, tend not to propagate too easily and they're a non-invasive species, so we don't have to worry about them going across the countryside.


They tend to, when they grow new trees, it tends to sprout up from the existing root systems. They're a coppicing species so yeah, they're, they're shade tolerant they, but they will also grow, you can just plant them out in the open. So they're, I guess they're some tolerant to which is why they work well as a pioneering species for establishing a new, new forest. 


Nick

Good stuff. So this, this one here is probably a bit of a loaded question and I would say like, Both Jamie and I are in favour of us increasing the area of the native forest state in the country. It's not that we're out here to demonise natives, but basically there is a scenario where native forest can be climate awful.


It's not because the resulting forest is necessarily climate awful. It's because it's too difficult to create the forest. And if we fixate too strongly on only establishing native forest and only doing so directly, then we're unlikely to achieve the scale of our ambitions. Even if the areas of forest that we do create are ones that are aspirational.


Worse still, we could create small areas of forest and then we'd see them die. Like some of the recent major native planting programs have had  Dire survival rates from what I've heard anecdotally. Another thing with too slow that's worth noting is that New Zealand has international commitments under the Paris Agreement.


If we fail to achieve our emissions mitigation targets domestically, we're obligated to partner internationally to achieve those targets and generally under the current models that will mean money going overseas. So there's real economic costs to being slow as well rather than just the  impatience of people like me who'd like to see quick climate change.


I'd say that's not really impatience, that's how we avoid catastrophic climate change. We're not here to try and start a fight. We just don't want to see radiata everywhere, which under the current policy settings is a significant risk. There is indications that those policies will be changed to some extent.


Question remains whether it's sufficient. We also don't want to see massive failure of our climate goals, which is another risk if we fixated too much on the other extreme of the spectrum. The answer is probably somewhere in the mid band of like, it's not. Well, this is clearly  an unfair characterization of either group's position at either end, but it's the extreme.


I think we need to find middle ground to get a good outcome on all of this. I'm  trying to, was there anything else you want to add there, Jamie, on the general picture of things from your perspective?  


Jamie

No, I think the, like you say, the solution is in the middle, and it's also a very localised solution rather than a blanket solution, which is kind of what we have these two extremes of blanket solutions that people are proposing that we do this across, you know, one or the other across millions of hectares.


But Dr. David Hall actually has done some really great work in this area where he talks about a mosaic or an interwoven landscape. And it's about a kind of patchwork where we pick whatever works in any given area and whatever fits the local ecosystem and ecology and so on rather than trying to look for one thing that we can roll out everywhere. 


Nick

Yeah, very well put. So. I guess you've kind of covered this. Redwoods, in summary, you're a fan. They're climate smart, at least climate smart in some locations with the qualify that you just said of you're not saying plant them everywhere.  


Jamie

No, that's right. Currently they make up less than 1 percent of our production forest estate.


So they're a minority. Radiata is 90%, Douglas Fir is 6%. So we don't have a lot of them really in New Zealand at the moment. But from any kind of perspective you look at, really evasiveness, resilience, their potential to absorb carbon and grow quickly and live for a very long time and create a very stable forest.


They just tick all the boxes. I believe. And the amazing thing really is that They're probably the best tree in the world for sequestering carbon for the long term. They're the tallest trees in the world, Coast Redwood, capable of growing to over 120 metres high. And it's just remarkable that they grow so well here and possibly better here than they do even in their native California.


Thanks to our more year-round rainfall.  


Nick

So you're 85 hectares in, is it? Have you got a target for 10 years of how many, how much redwoods you'd like to see in New Zealand? Is it just waiting more?  


Jamie

Well, I guess just in general I think we've got room for a lot more and we should have a lot more. They are great species in many regards.


They're not as versatile as pine or radiata. You can't just go out and plant them anywhere. You need to be a bit selective about the region where you're growing them and the local conditions. So they're definitely not a blanket solution and no one wants a blanket solution. We don't need another predominant species in New Zealand, but in the places where they can grow. I really think we should have as many as possible.  


Nick

Cool. So we, we're also discussing a number of, and I realise we're over time, but that usually happens. If people need to drop, we won't take offence, watch the video later, but there's a couple of non intuitive things which you encounter when you're talking about climate smart, and we're just going to quickly run through those.


And then I think we can wrap up and get into the questions. One of them, which is on my mind a lot, Is that a forest can help fight climate change, even if it burns down. Now, this is really controversial because like fires are a massive threat for multiple reasons, but time is an element and I'm also not saying that we should plant forest with the expectation that it's going to burn down.


That's a dumb idea. But,  like, time matters a lot here. Having carbon out of the atmosphere for 50 years Is a lot better than not having it out of the atmosphere at all. So if I had the option of a forest would grow and thrive and get 50 years old, and then be lost in a fire, I would choose that over never having had the forest established.


So the. Like all forest is, has some level of fire risk you shared an interesting summary the other day Jamie, which actually said that, and I think we get this into the question, like, Rimu is one of the most fire prone species in the country, so there's no, like, special exemption for natives necessarily, but time does matter here.


If we can achieve temporary carbon sequestration while we move the rest of the economy to a low carbon mode and perhaps scale up solutions like direct air capture or accelerated mineralization or whatever, that's still a really good thing to do. So people shouldn't fixate on the temporary nature of forest as a reason to just not even focus on it at all.


I guess I've kind of covered that with the speed matters as well, but do you want to briefly speak to that one, Jamie, especially since I stole this chart from your presentation?  


Jamie

Yeah, sure. I guess it's just to make the point that, yeah, Radiata is great. It grows quickly. It captures a lot of carbon in a short time frame but we have other species that grow well in New Zealand, native and exotic that maybe they might not be quite as fast as Radiata but they they are able to get established quickly and sequester lots large amounts of carbon and over a much longer lifespan than radiata.


Nick

So I think all the trees, all the species listed here, for instance, all have lifespans of 500 years or longer. With the exception of radiata, which is your own one, and I guess you've only got the graph out to 70 years here, but the point being that if you extended this another 200 years, the picture might start to look a bit different. 


Jamie

Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, unfortunately Douglas fir from a carbon sequestration perspective, it has fantastic properties, but it is highly invasive and we've lost a lot of or in this, in the South we have native forests that are under siege and being overrun with wilding Douglas fir.


So this graph doesn't tell you everything you need to be a bit more selective. I wouldn't advocate for planting Douglas fir as a climate smart solution necessarily. But there are a range of….


Nick

Certainly not a biodiversity smart one


Jamie

No, that's right. 


Nick

This here we've covered, but I think this is counterintuitive. Planting an exotic forest might be the best way to get to a native one.


That's not necessarily universally true, but it was true in the case of Milnthorpe. Like they deliberately tried the alternative, it failed, and now they're succeeding through a sort of interim model. You made this point the other week, Jeremy sorry, Jamie, and I think the, it's not so much just the canopy species, because like, I used to think biodiversity meant that all of your trees are different types.


And then I actually turned my brain on when I was walking in the forest near Arthur's Pass. And it's like, I'm walking through a beech forest, 99. 9 percent of the canopy species here are beech trees of the same beech subspecies pretty much, but it still feels biodiverse. And I think you linked this to the importance of if you're going to be harvesting, it's continuous canopy harvesting or, or selective harvesting rather than clear fell.


Do you want to expand on that?  


Jamie

Yeah, obviously, Clearfell is incredibly disruptive to native ecosystems. I think any permanent forest in New Zealand, you will find a quite a wide range of species living there. Even just a monoculture pine forest you know, that can be home to Kiwi. And a lot of the, As you say, biodiversity is a lot more than trees.


It's birds, mammals, not so much in New Zealand, but mainly birds in New Zealand, but also invertebrates and all the tiny things that we can't see. The organisms in the soil,  which are the very foundation of our entire food web, that we, you know, we tend not to think about them.  But there are enormous number of things that live in, in a healthy forest. 


Even if you say it's predominantly a single species.  


Nick

And I guess this is the less counterintuitive one, which kind of makes that point that it's probably quite hard to be climate smart if you cut all the trees down and you go back to a barren wasteland.  


Jamie

That's right.  And in a lot of other countries, of course, they're moving away from clear fell forestry towards continuous cover methods.


That's in particular in Germany and Europe. Those are more or less mainstream now. So it can be done. And we just need to, I think, try and move away from how we do forestry right now towards, you know, the alternative and more sustainable options.  


Nick

All right. I won't spend too long on this. I think we've covered it.


Like you want to be viable, effective, resilient, biodiverse. Before we get to questions, I did just want to get your perspective, Jamie, the other day on your, your carbon market experience. So a lot of what we've been talking about today, it costs money. Carbon markets are key or, or at least a potential significant source of funds to enable this activity.


In my view, they're very important, like they do align economic incentives. We do want to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. Forests do do that. There's several different forms of carbon market but  from your perspective, how is that going and what's your view on what needs to happen to enable that to happen?


Jamie

This or all these redwoods that you're looking for, for example, well, I think most foresters would agree that the last few years, maybe even since the start of the ETS have been quite a roller coaster not just the carbon price. People are aware that carbon price goes up and down all the time. And there's some speculation about what that was.


Do in the future but more the impact of changes and direction from government or the government of the day speculation about what types of forest will or won't be eligible in the future. And the tightening regulations around, you know, what gets planted and why it's been a hard couple of years.


I think under the the Labour government, we saw a lot of talk about changing making edits to the the emission trading scheme which were kind of, I think, based coming from a good place because people recognize that the ETS in New Zealand has a fundamental issue that we need the carbon price to rise a lot higher than it is today to act as an effective deterrent to emitters.


But also we know that already at 70 or 80 dollars a ton, people are very happy to go out and plant pine trees and that's not necessarily a valid long term solution. And everyone recognizes this is a problem. I think the Labour government tried to address it. But they did so in what I would suggest was not an ideal way.


And now we've had a new government, a coalition government that is has kind of frozen all the changes to the ETS, kicked the can down the road a little bit and talking about making further restrictions to what type of forestry can enter into the ETS. From Somebody who's trying to do something in New Zealand that is not pine but that can bring a lot of benefits for carbon and for biodiversity, as we said all this chopping and changing and uncertainty translates to you know, well, it's very difficult to to make decisions and, and to commit.


Money and particularly to take investment. One of my original objectives of Redwood Carbon was to run a crowdfunding campaign and repeat what we've done and what seems to be going well in Northland with new blocks of land with the aim of achieving all these fantastic outcomes for both the investors and the planet.


And I think with this ongoing speculation and particularly around the talk of introducing a kind of land tax or not, not talk about the decision to introduce the land tax at 30 per hectare per year. Cost for ETS participants. That was a real kind of sledgehammer for me. I think this idea of being taxed indefinitely.


If you try to create a permanent forest and I've personally found it quite hard to get past that. And It was definitely a bit of a knock in my confidence, and right now I've put all those kind of plans to try and duplicate and expand  what we did in Northland.  That's all on hold for the moment while I kind of try to  gain some confidence that the market is there and we will be there in the future. 


Nick

Yeah, it's really, I, I feel like there was a sort of the happy period where there was a lot of growth and a lot of investment felt like the bit where there was significant market confidence and a view that like the change response act was bipartisan legislation supported by all the major, major And it could be relied on and with the ETS auction, not even clearing completely last week, even at the price of 64.


I mean, this basically has, has been interpreted and I think should be taken by the government as a signal that. There remains uncertainty and a lack of confidence around the future of the scheme. And that, you know, quite aside from anything else, if the government actually wants to get fair value for the units that it's auctioning into this market, which like you sell one, you can't sell it again.


Selling them at 64 a pop is pretty stupid in my view. Like they should. Act fast to actually give the market some confidence that the ETS is going to be a high integrity system into the future. And I suspect that there will be a time that comes when there needs to be restrictions put in place on forestry.


Like if the economic incentives just remain totally unfettered, then you will get a lot of forest and it won't necessarily be the places you want and the kind that you want. I think we're quite a long way away from that. If you just had sensible land class restrictions. Like if there were restrictions to less productive land only, and like, we're a long, long, long way from the 2 million hectares that we ought to be aiming for in my view for a meaningful impact on climate change mitigation. Some of the fiddling at the details could be done without alarming the market 10 years down the track. And once we're a bit closer to where we need to be and we know what it's going to look like, but yeah, I think you're not alone in your sense of being rattled by.


perceived lack of commitment to the rules of the game. And if you change those rules, it's very hard to encourage investment. All right, thanks. Those who stayed with us, which looks like almost everybody. Amazingly. I realised we ran well over time. Jamie, I just want to say thanks again for taking the time to come and share your learnings here with everybody.


And also for your work in this space generally and for being such a nice person to talk to about this kind of stuff. I really appreciate you coming on and taking the time to chat. 


Jamie

Likewise. Thanks for having me Nick.  


Nick

Thanks a lot. Enjoy the rest of the day everybody. Cheers. 

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