Tasmania has just achieved a massive and enviable feat – the island state has become carbon negative and is one of the first places in the world to do it! Onya Tassie!
This isn’t the same as carbon neutral, where the amount of carbon emitted is offset and equal to the amount that’s removed.
Rather more carbon dioxide is being sequestered and removed from the atmosphere than is being emitted. Ultimately, Tassie is acting like a big ol’ carbon sink with the amount of carbon dioxide now sequestered by the state estimated to be around 22 million tonnes a year! Wowzas!
How did this happen?
The short answer – fewer trees are being cut down.
The long answer – while looking into the national greenhouse gas inventory of each state and territory, scientists from the Australian National University and Griffith University discovered something significant about Tassie’s carbon emissions.
Around 2011 and 2012, Tasmania began to see a downturn in carbon emissions – the same time the state significantly reduced the amount of native forest it was logging.
This was also the year Triabunna Mill closed down, which at the time was the world’s largest woodchip mill.
‘Most people don’t realise that when you log native forests, it has a huge carbon footprint,’ said Professor Brendan Mackey, lead author of the research paper published this week.
Unlike mainland Australia, most of Tasmania’s power already comes from hydro-electricity, so the state’s biggest emitter of carbon has been the logging of native forests. But that’s all turning on its head.
‘It shows us that change in forest management can have a remarkable impact on climate change,’ said ANU Professor David Lindenmayer. ‘Most of the climate discussions so far have been based on reducing emissions, but that is only part of the equation. We need to store a lot more carbon in the environment.’
The report emphasises the effectiveness of natural forests as carbon reserves and the greater economic value of conserving them in this way rather than logging them for wood chips and pulp.
‘Changing forest management in native forests to avoid emissions from logging along with enabling natural forest growth is an effective strategy that can rapidly reduce emissions and simultaneously increase removals of CO₂ from the atmosphere,’ said Professor Mackey.
We’ve got the solutions and technology to combat climate change, we just need the leadership and will to put them into action.
Feature photo by @henry_brydon