Australia continues to industrially clear their last native ancient forests,
even as their government promotes forest protection internationally to combat
climate change. Australia's new government led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has
ratified Kyoto, appears genuinely committed to global climate change policy, and
speaks often of how Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the world must protect
primary forests to solve global climate change.
Yet in an act of unseemly
doublespeak, the country that is perhaps most impacted by climate change
continues to log its last centuries old trees found in ancient forest ecosystems
vital for holding both carbon and water.
Why is forest protection a good idea internationally but not for Australia's
much reduced and climate impacted natural habitats? Australia's new government
must be called upon to stop their hypocrisy and end logging of their own old
growth forests as a keystone response to climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity and
Australia's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are amongst the highest in the
world and unsustainable lifestyles threaten the continent's fragile ecosystems.
Australia is currently experiencing extreme drought, and continued soaring
temperatures will result in failing water supplies, plummeting agricultural
yields, rising sea levels, surging extreme weather including super cyclones and
bushfires, and an influx of climate refugees.
Despite being largely arid, Australia still contains relatively small areas of
intact, unfragmented native forests which are vital for regional water, climate
and wildlife. Unfortunately, large scale first time industrial logging and other
clearing of these important ecosystems continues nationwide. The nation's few
remaining natural forest ecosystems continue to face first time clearance
including illegal land clearing and continued old-growth logging in New
South Wales, tropical rainforest clearance for agriculture in Queensland, and
logging of rare jarrah in the southwest's precious Gondwana forest remnants.
Nowhere is first time ancient forest logging more problematic than in Tasmania
where woodchipping giant Gunns Ltd. continues to clearcut ancient forests for
export as woodchips to make paper, and is close to constructing a pulp mill that
will indefinitely continue this dreadful legacy. The Tasmanian forest is
ancient, beautiful and irreplaceable. Tasmania has the tallest flowering plants
on Earth, with trees reaching over 90 meters in the Styx valley, and contains
Australia's greatest tract of temperate rainforest in the Tarkine wilderness.
Australia’s intact Eucalypt forests are carbon rich, storing on average 650
tonnes of carbon per hectare, much more than typical temperate forests.
Tasmania's logging industry already exports 5 million tones of pulp annually,
clearfelling and burning on average 20,000 hectares of native forests a year. If
built, the US$1.4 billion pulp mill project will need another 4 million tonnes
yearly, nearly doubling Gunns' current rate of clearcutting. The pulp mill will
increase Australia's annual greenhouse gas contributions by over 2 percent -- the
equivalent of 2.3 million new cars every year.
Early this year the new government's Federal Environment Minister, Peter
Garrett, gave Gunns approval to begin clearing vegetation on the pulp mill site
in Northern Tasmania, despite Gunns not having demonstrated it can meet major
conditions. And ANZ bank is still deciding whether to fund the project. Until
the mill is actually operational, there is hope for its demise, and these are
the two primary points of pressure. It is time for the Rudd government to stop
advocating measures internationally they are unwilling to implement
domestically, and end ancient forest logging nationwide as an urgent climate
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Prime Minister Rudd and ANZ will be held responsible for continuing to allow ancient forest logging when they know it causes climate change
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