The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) has described the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) proposal to increase logging intensity in north-east NSWs forests to provide up to one million tonnes of timber each year to generate electricity as sheer madness.
“Forests are the lungs of the earth, they take in our carbon dioxide, storing the carbon and giving us back oxygen, left standing they are part of the solution to climate change, cut down they become part of the problem,” NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
"Burning forests to generate electricity doesn't make sense, we lose the tree's ability to take in and store carbon, and when they are burnt they release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than burning coal.
"The forestry "residues" DPI are proposing to use are tree trunks (down to 10cm diameter and at least 2.5m long) with the crowns, branches, defective stems, and stumps left behind in the forest. Most of these will come from logging trees that would otherwise be retained.
"While the Forestry Corporation are legally only allowed to take 4 out of every 10 trees using Single Tree Selection (STS), the export woodchip market encouraged them to log up to 9 out of 10 trees using "heavy STS" until woodchipping collapsed in 2012.
"This curtailed the Forestry Corporation's ability to log so intensively. For example the area subject to heavy STS between Coffs Harbour and Taree was reduced from 5,000 ha in 20011 to 600ha last year.
"This proposal is all about increasing logging intensity and developing a new market to replace export woodchipping as the sawlog resource is progressively cut out.
"The reality is that logging has run down the carbon storage in vast tracts of NSW's forest by 40-60%. As logging intensity increases the carbon stored in the trees and soil, along with the forest's structure and biodiversity, is further diminished.
"We are facing a climate emergency. Burning forests for electricity is sheer madness.
"If we want to address the climate chaos caused by rising atmospheric carbon we need to quickly move to obtaining our energy from non-polluting sources, such as wind and solar, while restoring the ability of our forests to take-up and store increasing volumes of carbon as they age.
"We need to stop logging of public native forests not increase it.”
A 2017 review by Chatham House concluded that since "woody biomass is less energy dense than fossil fuels, and contains higher quantities of moisture and less hydrogen, at the point of combustion burning wood for energy usually emits more greenhouse gases per unit of energy produced than fossil fuels.
Overall, while some instances of biomass energy use may result in lower lifecycle emissions than fossil fuels, in most circumstances, comparing technologies of similar ages, the use of woody biomass for energy will release higher levels of emissions than coal and considerably higher levels than gas".
The DPI report defines ‘residue’ as follows:
"We only considered logs that met the specifications for pulpwood as available for extraction (typically 10 cm small end diameter overbark, and a minimum of 2.5 m in length – no species restrictions – and the crown was typically left in the forest). This was partly due to the fact that the local industry already has experience harvesting and transporting pulpwood from the forest. Extracting pulpwood only, means that a significant proportion of the residues generated (stump, bark, leaves, small branches, large and defective stem sections) are left in the forest"