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Greening of the world – positive news for forestry or warnings for New Zealand

There are many reasons why forest based products face an optimistic future in a world struggling to balance growing population and demand while also attempting to transition to a low carbon economy.  A few points arising from the recent FSC General Assembly in Vancouver are given below.

Disruptive drivers may be:

  • Shortage of land due to agricultural food production pressures.
  • Continued or accelerated loss of forest or forest quality due to the above.
  • 3D printing of whole houses disrupting solid wood use.
  • Huge distrust of credibility of wood and other biologically based fuels unless underpinned by very strict accounting and verification systems. 

Is NZ letting opportunity slip through its fingers – After three major earthquakes, with a ‘housing crisis’, high cost of bespoke construction in a sector whose productivity (on a world scale) has not improved dramatically and with a serious challenge to reduce NZ’s carbon emissions – is structural / prefab construction not part of an answer.

  • Presentations on the new multi-story design and construction innovations starting to occur around the world were impressive. Others are moving fast– can NZ?
  • See U-Tube – Brock Commons and Michael Green Architecture (MGA Architecture) and his educational initiative www.timbereducation.org

  • If NZ cities want to be cities of the future not cities at the end of an era – we will need to up our game. Targets set and being achieved by Vancouver seem to leave NZ looking complacent and ineffectual.

The closed cycle economy: Some of the worlds very significant companies ( Apple, Marks and Spencer, Kingfisher, Clothing retailers etc) presented on the significant decisions they have made to move to fully close their economic cycles. Ambitious targets for carbon and energy neutrality, zero or minimal waste, and offsetting of ecological footprints are being locked in and progressed.

  • Wood based products – solid, fibre, bio-chemical and ecological restoration within certified forest units are seen as playing important components in allowing these industrial leaders to meet their goals.
  • These companies are at varying degrees also promoting their association with FSC and sustainably produced forest products as an underpinning foundation of their claims.
  • Can NZ’s world stage exporters of consumer goods stand by and watch while addressing climate change and recyclability are seen as critical business platforms for their international competitors and supplier companies operating around the world?
  • Can NZ as a nation continue to accept increasing carbon emissions and a relatively casual response to sustainable land use as a viable pathway to the future?

Policy:

A noticeably consistent theme arising from several Government and Departmental guest speakers (not unexpectedly in British Colombia and Canada in general) was the references to forest policies. Not only was forestry naturally seen as important in Canada, but the existence of policy to support the role of forestry was a constant reference. Not just because of the direct economic importance but because of the recognised criticality of these forests in the Nation’s moves to achieve “climate safe” economies and to manage and protect their biodiversity.   In a similar venue, what could NZ have legitimately stated?

Food for thought!?