Seeking a sustainable timber industry

Monday, 30 November, 2009

The Green Building Council of Australia has announced the release of a revised Timber credit, effective 1 January 2010, which allows for equal consideration of the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) schemes. This is an outstanding outcome for the Australian forestry industry.

GBCA Chief Executive Romilly Madew said the announcement follows a detailed review of the GBCA’s Timber credit, conducted by an independent Timber Expert Reference Panel.

With the revised Timber credit, all schemes will need to satisfy five essential criteria to be eligible.

“We are hoping that the release of the revised Timber credit will clarify the issue and dispel any myths surrounding the review,” said Madew.

“The revised Timber credit has the support of the federal government and moves away from the recognition of a single scheme to a principles-based approach where several schemes could be rewarded - as long as the essential criteria are met. This means that projects using timber from any scheme, including the AFS, will be eligible for points through this credit, so long as the scheme has applied for, and met, the essential criteria,” said Madew.

“The GBCA supports an Australian forest industry that produces timber in a sustainable way and one of the aims of the GBCA’s timber review was to ‘shut the door’ on the importation of illegal or questionable timber.

“We are very grateful for the support of the federal government throughout our review process, especially the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke.

“We are aware that any change to our Timber credit should have a positive impact on Australian jobs. As we have seen during the global economic crisis, green jobs helped sustain employment and this sector continues to expand,” said Madew.

The GBCA promotes green building programs, technologies, design practices and processes, and operates Green Star, Australia’s only voluntary national comprehensive environmental rating system for buildings. A certified Green Star rating can be attained by achieving points through a variety of credits within nine key categories. The Timber credit is from the Materials category, which projects can choose to document to achieve a Green Star rating.

“Many projects have achieved the Green Star Timber credit over the past six years using Australian timber. These include the Melbourne Convention Centre (Six Star Green Star) and Lend Lease’s The Gauge in Melbourne (Six Star Green Star). As a voluntary rating tool, Green Star also provides the flexibility for projects to achieve a Green Star certified rating without points from the Timber credit.

Earlier this year, in a joint statement, the Australian Forestry Standard fully supported the work undertaken by the GBCA’s Timber Expert Reference Panel in relation to the Timber credit review. In the statement, they said: “It is clear the panel approached the task in a fair and reasonable manner and with no preconceptions. This independent review of the credit is an appropriate and fair way of continuing to ensure Green Star recognises the needs of the forest industry, while achieving positive environmental outcomes.”

“Climate change is challenging every industry and as such each needs to continually seek ways to minimise their impact on the environment. The Australian property and forestry industries are no different,” said Madew.

“Australia, through the public and private sectors, is working hard to stay at the forefront of developing environmental best practice solutions for new buildings. Green Star provides a rating system which rewards best practice in buildings - not standard, average or minimum legal practice. The GBCA must, therefore, ensure it uses a methodology which recognises best practice in forest management schemes.”

The GBCA is confident the revised Timber credit is fair and reasonable, with the essential criteria incorporating the assessment of chain of custody; governance; standards, development and revision; auditing and certification decisions; and verification of legality.

These essential criteria will be released for applications from 1 January 2010. Stakeholders will also be asked for further comment on Significant Criteria of the Timber Credit as the GBCA continues to evolve the credit and its tools in its drive for change and improvement in environmental performance.

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