In 2015 the Australian government controversially legislated to include the burning of native forest biomass into the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Markets For Change is currently monitoring the situation in Australia in regards to upcoming biomass projects, relevant legislations and positions of Australian politicians on the issue.
Native forest biomass has a long history of rejection in Australia. For decades the Australian forest industry has been pushing for
In the early 2000s, a forest industry push for forest furnaces to produce electricity met resistance and rejection as a renewable energy by the community, given the adverse environmental impacts.
In 2001 a Morgan Poll found that 88% of people opposed the use of native forest for wood- red power. Biomass power from native forests had become known as ‘dead koala’ power. Posters asked people ‘would you burn my home to power yours?’
In 2009 ten major electricity retailers and the National GreenPower Group rejected native forest biomass derived power.
In 2010 a Galaxy poll showed that 77% of Australians want an end to the logging of Australia’s native forests in order to conserve their carbon stores.
A native forest biomass fuelled electricity generator proposed by South East Fibre Exports Pty Ltd (SEFE) for the site of its Eden woodchip mill on the south coast of New South Wales has recently been withdrawn. A small scale trial pellet production facility at the same site has been closed down. Both projects met strong and persistent local opposition.
Disappointingly, new proposals for biofuel production and for electricity generation from native forests continue to be advanced. For example, Forestry Tasmania envisages four new bioenergy facilities for the state in their innovation plan, which is a controversial and unhelpful proposal for these times.
We are surveying the policy position of all candidates for the Federal election on this issue.
Summary of responses:
Markets for Change sent a questionnaire requesting support for the removal of native forest biomass from the RET to all candidates standing in the 2016 federal election campaign. Not all candidates responded. Following the Declaration of the Polls, we have now cross-referenced candidate responses with MPs successfully elected to the Federal Parliament.
In the House of Representatives:
- Of the 61 Liberal MPs elected, all responded to the questionnaire, and all did not support the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Of the 15 National MPs elected, none responded to the questionnaire, leaving ambiguous their current position on the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Of all 69 ALP MPs elected, none responded to the questionnaire, leaving unknown their current position on the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Of the 4 crossbenchers, only the Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie responded to the questionnaire, and stated his support for the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Whilst he didn’t provide a response, it is assumed that Greens’ MP Adam Bandt supports the removal of native forest biomass from the RET as he voted against its inclusion in the previous Parliament.
In the Senate:
- All 26 Liberal Senators elected responded to the questionnaire, and all did not support the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Of the 4 National Senators elected, none responded to the questionnaire, leaving ambiguous their current position on the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Of all 26 ALP Senators elected, none responded to the questionnaire, leaving unknown their current position on the removal of native forest biomass from the RET.
- Of all 9 Greens Senators elected, two (Victoria’s Janet Rice and Tasmania’s Nick McKim) responded to the questionnaire, stating their support for the removal of native forest biomass from the RET. It is assumed the remaining 7 Greens Senators also support its removal as they voted against its inclusion during the previous Parliament.
- None of the elected Nick Xenophon Team, Jacqui Lambie Network, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, One Nation Party, Family First, Liberal Democrat Senators responded to the questionnaire.
All candidate responses posted on the links below:
- NSW Candidate responses
- VIC Candidate responses
- QLD Candidate responses
- WA Candidate responses
- SA Candidate responses
- TAS Candidate responses
- NT Candidate responses
- ACT Candidate responses
Markets For Change says:
The burning of native forest biomass should be completely removed from Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.
Otherwise, its continued inclusion would allow industrial logging and export woodchip style destruction to remain entrenched in the magnificent native forests of Australia, and could increase logging pressure. It is likely to also displace genuinely clean sources of renewable energy such as solar and wind power from receiving the benefits of Renewable Energy Credits.
The fact is that burning native forests for energy is highly emissive of greenhouse gases – more so per unit of energy generated than is burning coal. The claim that this is irrelevant because eventually that carbon is recaptured by growing forest ignores the time factor for such recovery which is measured in many decades or even centuries. That’s if those forests are ever actually allowed to recover completely instead of being subject to another logging cycle. We have much less time to substantially decrease our emissions if we are to turn climate change around – focus is on emission reduction targets for 2020 and 2030.
What the Parties did last year:
The coalition government introduced the change that included native forest biomass in the RET. The Greens opposed it. Labor opposed the original amendment that inserted the change, but then went on to vote in favour of the final legislation that included native forest combustion in the RET.
Senate cross benchers agreed to the inclusion of native forests, including Nick Xenephon. The exception was Senator Lazarus.
Labor avoiding stating its position?
Labor’s climate policy is silent on removing native forest biomass from the RET, although we are aware that they have been asked to explicitly state their policy. It seems a far cry from the days when Labor in government excluded native forest bioenergy from the RET and explained the policy thus: “Wood waste from native forests was removed from the RET as an eligible renewable energy source in 2011. This amendment was made to ensure that the RET did not provide an incentive for the burning of native forest wood waste for bio-energy, which could lead to unintended outcomes for biodiversity and the destruction of intact carbon stores.”
 Published response of the Australian government to the Climate Change Authority’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) Review, March 2013