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The politics of numbers in forest and climate change policies in Australia and the UK

Buizer, M. and Lawrence, A. (2014) The politics of numbers in forest and climate change policies in Australia and the UK. Environmental Science and Policy, 35 . pp. 57-66.

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Forestry worldwide has a history of relying upon quantification, drawing on science and economics to compute core concepts such as the relationship between tree-based stand descriptors and marketable timber volumes. This number-oriented approach is grounded in rationalisation and sustained yield objectives that emerged in the eighteenth century and persisted throughout most of the twentieth century. With the rise of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) as a governing idea in the 1990s, forest policy and management broadened its orientation to encompass different values, including biodiversity and cultural values. Adaptive Forest Management (AFM) has emerged as a more recent paradigm, responding to the complexity of forest ecosystems by building on systematic learning from operational practice, making space for more qualitative approaches. With the development of climate change policy and carbon accounting, the balance changes once again towards the role of numbers in forestry management. In both Australia and the UK, international politics, policy and national debate linking climate change to forests prioritise one public good – carbon sequestration – over others. The quantifiability of carbon makes mitigation more easily communicated and translated into other sectors and across levels of government, so when policy actors attempt to promote the role of forestry in climate change, its contribution to mitigation is receiving more recognition than adaption. At the sub-national level, there is a growing awareness of the urgency of adaptation, but advocates struggle with the challenges of making adaptation legible in the absence of widely recognised forms in which to express results. Our analysis suggests that ways need to be found to combine the historically strong language of number with other, more qualitative languages, to realise the full potential of forestry in climate change policy.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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