International Day of Forests
Australia’s forest industry continues to make a strong contribution to the national economy, particularly in regional Australia
THE AUSTRALIAN Government is pleased to be celebrating the 2017 International Day of Forests and its theme of “Forests and Energy”. I am personally excited about the future of the Australian forest industry - it is a sunrise industry and provides a raft of new and emerging opportunities. These include wood processing innovation, carbon farming, bio-energy and a range of bio-products that offer a renewable substitute to more emissions-intensive materials, such as steel and concrete.
These exciting opportunities are founded on a rigorous forest management framework that supports the sustainable use of Australia’s forests. The Australian Government is committed to the principles of ecologically sustainable forest management maintaining ecological processes; maintaining biological diversity and optimising for the full range of benefits forests can provide.
A key framework for implementing sustainable management are the Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs).
The RFAs are 20-year agreements between the Australian and State Governments that balance competing economic, social and environmental demands and provide resource security and investment confidence to industry. In any one year only 0.06% of Australia’s native forest area is harvested and the forest managers ensure both temporal and spatial separation of activities to create a mosaic of age classes and ecology across the landscape to support biodiversity.
Australia’s forest industry continues to make a strong contribution to the national economy, particularly in regional Australia. In 2014-15 the forest industry generated a record turnover of $22.2 billion from forest product manufacturing sales and service and provided employment for 69,000 people in forestry, harvesting and wood products manufacturing.
The RFAs also provide for the protection of environmental values through a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system. When the RFAs were signed, between 1997 and 2001, more than 3.3 million hectares was added to the reserve estate, increasing the reserve system by 44% – a tremendous result for conservation. There is also a range of additional recreational and tourism job-creating opportunities that can be undertaken within our spectacular reserve system.
For all these reasons, the Australian Government is committed to the extension of the RFAs as the best mechanism for managing the productive use and conservation of Australia’s public native forests. The extension of the RFAs will ensure that robust, sustainable and adaptive forest management continues to be delivered. The extension will also assist in providing a stable business environment that encourages innovation and investment, which will allow the industry to thrive for generations to come. That is why I have been working with the State Governments to complete the RFA extension negotiations as a priority.
In keeping with the theme of Forests and Energy, the Australian Government has re-introduced native forest wood waste into the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. Biomass can function as a carbon neutral, base-load energy source. It is not dependent on sunny or windy days; it can produce sustainable, renewable and reliable energy, 24 hours a day. All carbon released in generating the electricity was originally sequestered in the tree or plant – and sustainable management means the forests are replanted to sequester more carbon. Biomass-to-energy plants also reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Its inclusion as an eligible energy source is another contribution to meeting the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
The Australian Government is committed to working with industry to achieve its goals and looks forward to celebrating its future on the 2017 International Day of the Forests.
Information on the Australian forest industry can be found on the Forestry page of the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website: www. agriculture.gov.au/ forestry. Information on the International Day of Forests can be found on the Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations website: http:// www.fao.org/internationalday-of-forests/en/