Tasmania has become one of the first parts of the world to become not just carbon neutral but carbon negative by reducing logging, researchers say.
Key points: Researchers say a "significant drop in native forest logging" around 2011 began a downturn in carbon emissions
Researchers say a "significant drop in native forest logging" around 2011 began a downturn in carbon emissions A forestry industry group credits Tasmania being carbon negative as largely due to Tasmania's "responsible forest management"
A forestry industry group credits Tasmania being carbon negative as largely due to Tasmania's "responsible forest management" The logging of Tasmania's forests has long been a highly divisive issue, with the current Liberal government aiming to restart the industry
Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) and Griffith University "drilled into" the national greenhouse gas inventory and looked at each state's contribution.
They saw Tasmania had made a "remarkable achievement".
"Tasmania has gone from being the emitter of carbon dioxide to now removing more than it is emitting to the atmosphere," Griffith University researcher Brendan Mackey said.
"The mitigation benefit is about 22 million tons of carbon dioxide a year."
Professor David Lindenmayer from the ANU said "we hear a lot about carbon neutral but not carbon negative".
"This is one of the first times on the planet that anybody has ever done this kind of reversal," he said.
Professor Mackey said Tasmania's change in forest management should be followed by other Australian states to cut emissions. ( ABC News: Gregor Salmon )
Researchers then examined native forest harvesting and concluded the change in carbon footprint could be attributed to the reduction in native forest logging, meaning the forests would continue to grow, all the while "removing carbon from the atmosphere".
"Most people don't realise that when you log native forests, it has a huge carbon footprint," Professor Mackey said.
"And when you change the forest management to reduce the amount of native forest logging you use, you avoid very significant amounts of CO2 emissions."
Professor Mackey said the "big change" in Tasmania's forest management happened around 2011 and 2012.
"That was when there was a significant drop in native forest logging in Tasmania … that's when we saw this big change in the greenhouse gas inventory reports," he said.
Tasmanian Forest Products Association's Nick Steel said the state had a "sustainable model of forestry". ( Supplied )
Professor Mackey said Tasmania already had a "very low" emission profile, with the state's electricity largely coming from hydro energy.
"The main mitigation challenge for Tasmania is how it manages its forests," he said.
He said "tree farms" or plantations would still help satisfy the demand for timber, without increasing the emissions.
"With just a little bit more investment we can potentially cover all our wood demand needs from plantations," he said.
Tasmanian Forest Products Association chief executive Nick Steel said the state had a "sustainable model of forestry".
"Tasmania being carbon negative is largely due to Tasmania's responsible forest management — our balance of plantations and native forestry and the simple fact that in Tasmania every single tree that is harvested is replanted or regenerated for the future," he said.
He said it was important to get the balance between production and emission reduction right.
"We need timber. That has never been more evident than now with the timber shortage we are seeing," Mr Steel said.
Professor Mackey said the change in forest management should be followed by other Australian states to cut emissions.
"It is vital we protect and enhance natural forest ecosystem carbon stocks and that the mitigation benefits of forest protection are properly accounted for and reported to help us achieve the deep and rapid cuts in emissions needed over the coming critical decade," he said.