In wake of Guardian Australia report, Penny Sharpe says regional forest agreements must include climate change as a consideration
NSW Labor has demanded that climate change be on the table as part of a full scientific assessment of the state’s regional forest agreements (RFAs), which areset to expire over the next two years.
Penny Sharpe, opposition environment spokeswoman, said NSW Labor would not sign off on proposed extensions because the government “knows the science underpinning the RFAs is out of date and incomplete”.
She said: “Importantly, the RFA assessment must include climate change as a consideration. Given the key role of forests for carbon storage, no RFA should be renewed without investigating their impact on climate change.
“The unnecessary rush to push ahead with early renewal of these agreements lays bare the government’s intentions: a quick and dirty escape from a complex policy issue before the 2019 state election.”
Sharpe’s comments came after Guardian Australia revealed on Wednesday the “now quite old” science that underpins the existing RFAs and whether they “remain valid for proposed extensions”.
The move by NSW Labor puts pressure on federal Labor to toughen its position on the RFA renewals across Australia.
A delegation of environment groups led by the National Parks Association of NSW will be in Canberra next Tuesday lobbying government and Labor MPs over the science underpinning the extended RFAs.
Oisin Sweeney, senior ecologist for the NPA, said it was significant that NSW Labor was insisting climate change be considered as part of new assessments of Australia’s native forests.
“Climate science wasn’t part of the comprehensive regional assessments for the old RFAs done 20 years ago, but clearly it should be now.”
Also yesterday, the Bob Brown Foundation flagged the possibility of challenging the Tasmanian RFA, which was extended last year on a permanent rolling five-yearly basis.
The new forest wars: ‘This is something we didn’t expect’ – video
Jenny Weber, campaign manager for the foundation said, “[We’re] not surprised by the revelations today in The Guardian that the regional forest agreements are at risk of being legally invalid.
“The Tasmanian regional forest agreement was rolled over last year and the death warrant was signed on thousands of hectares of wild forests in Tasmania. This RFA, and any that will be rolled over in other states of Australia, is based on 20-year-old environmental and scientific assessments. That makes them a farce.
“We know this old science is driving species to the brink of extinction, for example the critically endangered swift parrot. Despite pleas by scientists working to prevent the swift parrot’s rapid spiral towards extinction – they have called for logging not to occur in the parrot’s habitat – logging of their habitat continues in Tasmania’s southern forests.”
Logging also continues in the Tarkine rainforests.
Sharpe criticised the Berejiklian government’s consultation on the long-overdue reviews of the RFAs and called for a proper assessment without a predetermined outcome.
“No one has been fooled by this all-in-one review and sham consultation exercise being undertaken in NSW – a review for which the outcome has already been decided is not really a review, so it is no wonder that numerous key stakeholders abandoned the consultation process.
She said concerns about the consultation had also been raised by scientists and environment groups which have withdrawn from the consultations because the government announced that it is was committed to renewing the RFAs regardless.
“Labor has been unequivocal: Labor will not sign off on a rollover of the RFAs until there is a proper, independent, scientific assessment of their outcomes, and the assumptions of the original RFAs are revisited.