Page 2986 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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I am pleased to table today the carbon sequestration audit report titled A carbon sequestration audit of vegetation biomass in the Australian Capital Territory. When developing the ACT’s climate change strategy, weathering the change, the government was aware that our natural ecosystems and urban forests had a role to play in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing or sequestering carbon dioxide. Accordingly, and as set out in action 43 of the government’s climate change strategy, weathering the change, we commissioned a review of carbon currently stored in our urban and non-urban vegetation to inform the government’s tree planting and ecosystem plans. Thus the carbon sequestration audit was commissioned to assess both carbon stocks and sequestration levels between 2008 and 2015.

In June last year, a team from the Fenner School of Society and the Environment at the Australian National University was engaged to undertake this work. Now ready for public release, this is the first time in Australia that carbon stock and sequestration rates have been measured for an entire Australian state or territory. I would like to acknowledge the very good work done by the team from the Australian National University.

As to the scope of the work, the report studied the 2008 levels of carbon stock contained in the ACT. In the urban estate, trees growing on territory land as street trees, in urban parks and within Canberra nature reserve were counted. Trees growing on private leasehold land were not included. In the non-urban area, random sample points were identified and the vegetation measured. The report also measured the additions of emitted carbon from the 2003 bushfires, the increase in the Cotter Dam wall, the Canberra International Arboretum and Gardens and the conversion of woodland and grassland for urban land development. The report also examined the fate of trees removed from the urban estate.

Turning to the report’s findings, it is interesting to note a number of key points. Firstly, the carbon stock in the non-urban forest is 28,153,000 tonnes and in the urban forest it is 285,000 tonnes, giving a total of carbon stock in the ACT of 28,438,000 tonnes. The amount of carbon stored in the ACT’s urban and non-urban forests will rise each year by 29,400 tonnes for the next seven years—a total increase of 206,000 tonnes to the year 2015.

The non-urban native forest contains about 95 per cent of the current carbon stock in vegetation biomass. However, this sector only produced 28 per cent of projected sequestration between 2008 and 2015. The pine forests of the ACT contain four per cent of the total carbon stock and sequestered 24 per cent of projected sequestration. Most interestingly, the urban forest, with only one per cent of the current carbon stock, produced 48 per cent of the projected sequestration. In other words, the report concludes that the urban trees are better sequesterers than native trees in places such as Namadgi. This is because trees are highly effective absorbers of carbon when they are young, between 25 and 45 years of age. Older trees sequester carbon at a slower rate, although they store ever-increasing amounts of carbon.

The ACT’s urban forest supplies many benefits beyond mere sequestration, such as reducing air pollution and stormwater runoff and providing cooling in the

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