Earlier this year Cabinet agreed to the adoption of the Field Measurement Approach (FMA) for assessing carbon stocks in post-1989 forest.  The Climate Change (Forestry Section) Regulations 2008 were recently amended and now set out the requirements for using the FMA (see sections 22A to 22O).

The new requirements apply to a participant who has 100 or more registered hectares of post-1989 forest land in the NZ ETS at any time during a mandatory emissions return period (an FMA participant).  Non FMA participants must continue to use the look-up table approach, based on the tables in the Regulations.

The FMA approach has the following key features:

  • FMA participants will apply to the chief executive of MAF for the allocation of permanent sample plots to be located on the participant's land.  These plots are allocated in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations, which stipulate the minimum number of plots required on a piece of land.
  • Participants must collect a range of information about each plot at least once in each mandatory emissions return period, and must submit this to MAF.
  • MAF then generates participant specific look-up tables based on the information provided by the participants, which model forest growth and carbon yield for the FMA participant's forest as tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare.  These tables must be based on national or international industry standard approaches for determination and forecasting of forest carbon stocks.
  • Participants who have their own unique look-up tables use these to calculate their carbon stocks and for the purposes of submitting emissions returns.  Those that don’t must continue to use the generic look-up tables in the Regulations.

While the look-up table approach had benefits (it is user friendly and low cost) it meant that there was concern that some would receive more carbon credits than they were due, while others would receive less.  MAF acknowledged that as a result "Participants will not be rewarded for management actions that maximise carbon storage in their forest".  The FMA was adopted to address these deficiencies.

Notably, the Review Panel recommends that owners of less than 100 hectares of forest have the option, at their cost, of undertaking actual measurement.  It also recommends that the Government consider whether the 100 hectare threshold should be increased.

More on the FMA can be found on the MAF website.