Thursday, May 31, 2007

Federal Opposition promises soil carbon trading**

This was broadcast on ABC rural news radio a few hours ago ( I'd have posted it immediately but we had to feed the lambs)

Labor announces carbon plan

Thursday, 31/05/2007
Labor says it will set up a carbon trading scheme by 2010.
Primary Industries spokesman Kerry O'Brien says Labor will offer farmers money for research and the opportunity to sell vegetation and soil carbon offsets.
"In all respects farmers should be confident that Labor will take a sensitive approach to the needs of the farming community in this regard," he said.
"We recognise that they have not been well served to date in the debate because the Government has not initiated or funded the research that is needed to give the farming community the opportunities that it deserves in what will undoubtedly be a set of arrangements to trade carbon under any government of the future," he said.

Thanks for your support.

Michael & Louisa Kiely


**PPS. We briefed Peter Garrett in Rockhampton Airport in March. We told him Australian soils have been slandered as "too ancient" and "unable to sequester significant amounts of carbon" and stressed the lack of government-funded research into carbon-positive farming vs the amount spent measuring the damage conventional land management has done.


The Carbon Coalition acknowledges the downside risk of any trading regime set up to meet the needs of the fossil fuels industry is that agriculture would be dragged in.
We know Origin Energy has been pursuing agriculture for some time. The Carbon Coalition has always held the following opinion: Agriculture should not seek to avoid its responsibilities. Emissions are emissions. But Agriculture has moved past the high emissions phase it was in during 1990 when the baseline industry emissions were measured. (There was a significant amount of land clearing during 1990.) The practices of 'Carbon Farming' are low emission/no emission, further reducing the industry's exposure. And, just as city-based businesses have discovered massive savings when addressing their emissions, the same can be expected for agriculture.
The issue of nitrogenous fertilisers is a case in point - 50% of the nitrogen applied is emitted as NO2, a highly potent greenhouse gas. The desire for profit should drive the fertiliser companies to develop new fertilisers that do not emit greenhouse gases. There are also biological fertilisers available. Composting, compost teas, etc. And many new practices - including advanced grazing management - reduce the need for fertilisers. An efficiency rating of 50% losses on application would normally be cause for concern in any business.
The issue of methane continues to plague the industry, largely because the issue is not understood. Methane (CH4) is 20 times more potent than CO2.The CSIRO and US scientists are working on solutions to beef burping. It seems cattle lose 10% of the nutritional value of what they eat in lost methane. SO there is another saving we can look forward to. No one doubts these issues are challenging. But trying to avoid them by denying climate change or working against the carbon credit opportunity for landholders on the grounds that it cuts both ways (as several industry figures have done) is futile. It was going to cut one way anyway, whether we got credits or not.

Here is today's ABC rural radio report on the PM's Task Force Report:

PM's task group recommends carbon trading
Thursday, 31/05/2007
The Prime Minister's Emissions Task Group today is expected to recommend a carbon trading scheme which would force sectors like power generation to reduce emissions without damaging the economy.
Miners, who dominate the group along with government officials, are calling for all sectors, including agriculture to face the same restrictions.
The National Farmers Federation does not currently believe agriculture can be directly brought into a trading scheme because it is too hard to measure the sector's emissions.
But NFF chief executive Ben Fargher says rising electricity costs and future emissions measurements would affect farmers.
"The way the rules are set up, if the Government does indeed go to introduce a carbon trading scheme, would determine the potential risks and opportunities for agriculture," he said.
"We were not involved in the Prime Minister's task force, which was very, very disappointing for us.
"We must be involved, agriculture that is, in the setting up of any rules around an emission trading scheme."

The PM's Task Group members include (major polluters identified by ***) Please note the number 2 polluter (agriculture) was not invited.

Dr Peter Shergold, (Chair) Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet;
Mr David Borthwick, Secretary, Department of the Environment and Heritage;
Dr Ken Henry, Secretary, The Treasury;
Mr Michael L’Estrange, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade;
Mr Mark Paterson, Secretary, Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources;

Mr Peter Coates, Executive Committee Member, Xstrata***;
Mr Tony Concannon Managing Director, International Power***;
Mr Russell Higgins, Non-Executive Director, Australian Pipeline Trust***;
Ms Margaret Jackson, Chairman, Qantas***;
Mr Chris Lynch, Executive Director, BHP Billiton***;
Mr John Marlay, Chief Executive Officer, Alumina Limited***;

Mr John Stewart, Managing Director, National Australia Bank

The Conspiracy Against Soil Carbon Credits

The Carbon Coalition has been conscious of a deep undercurrent running against us in our attempts to have the issue discussed openly in poublic forums and the media in the 18 months of campaigning. While not naturally believers in conspiracy theories, our reading of the book SCORCHER recently published by Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute revealed a complex network of anti-climate change forces which was focussed on the "dirty power" industries. We have now been made aware that this network stretched beyond the fossil fuel industries into agriculture, the second largest emitting industry. Senior office holders of a prominent industry association and an indutry research organisation have conducted a spoiling campaign. Four individuals have been identified. Documents have been handed on to the Coalition.
One of these appears below:

EMAIL RECEIVED FROM NSW FARMER EXEC***********************************************

Sent: 18/03/2007 10:02 PM
Subject: Barking up the wrong tree

Dear Mr Truman,

Thank you for copying me in on your round robin.

Please have a read of and tell me what you think

My feeling is that agriculture is a net contributor to green house gas emissions so we might be barking up the wrong tree to raise our heads above the parapet and ask to be checked out by the scientists in the hope that we'll get a payout!

They're more likely to ask for some money from us than pay us out anything.

My FEELING is that a native forest is an equal consumer and producer of carbon and is therefore in balance with the world however a wheat field or a beef property are producing more CO2 than they consume.

It would be interesting to hear your views




We know who you are and what you are doing. But we don't care anymore.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Europe finally "gets" SOILS?

The European Commission has admitted it has "big knowledge gaps" about the behaviour of soil under different land uses and climate change. It's admission comes in the following tender announcement:

(Thanks to Tony Lovell for this lead)

Tender: Interrelations between soil and climate change
Date: 2007-05-14

The European Commission's Environment Directorate-General has published a call for tenders for a review of existing information on the interrelations between soil and climate change, which was pre-published as 'interactions between soil protection and climate change'.

Through a very comprehensive literature review and expert judgement, the objective of this contract is to build a robust understanding of the interactions between soil under different land uses (agriculture, forestry, wetlands etc.) and climate change in four major areas where big knowledge gaps have been identified. This will allow, in a second stage, improved exploitation of these interactions in order to protect soil functions and combat climate change.

This implies that the contractor collects and compares the results of existing pan-European and other relevant models dedicated to the interaction between soil and climate change, so as to provide policy-relevant information concerning the long-term effects on the soil carbon pool of the increase in global temperatures, as well as the measures that can be adopted to fight the decline of soil organic matter.

Contact person
For further information, please contact:

European Commission
Directorate-General Environment
Markets Team, F.2 - Finance BU-5 00/169
B-1049 Brussels
Tel. +32 2 296 0008
Fax: +32 2 299 4449
E-mail: Contact

To see the full details of the call, please consult the following web address:

On 22.9.2006, the European Commission adopted the Thematic Strategy on the protection of soil. It includes a proposal for a Soil Framework Directive aiming at strengthening, inter alia, the role of soil in climate change mitigation. In the strategy, the Commission has announced that it 'will build a robust approach to address the interaction between soil protection and climate change from the viewpoints of research, economy and rural development so that policies in these areas are mutually supportive.' It is against this background that the Commission, with this contract, intends to assess the actual contribution of the protection of soil to climate change mitigation and the effects of climate change on soil productivity, including the depletion of soil organic matter.
Through a very comprehensive literature review and expert judgement, the objective of this contract is to build a robust understanding of the interactions between soil under different land uses (agriculture, forestry, wetlands etc.) and climate change in 4 major areas where big knowledge gaps have been identified. This will allow, in a second stage, to better exploit these interactions in order to protect soil functions and combat climate change.
This implies that the contractor collects and compares the results of existing pan-European and other relevant models dedicated to the interaction between soil and climate change, so as to provide policy-relevant information concerning the long-term effects on the soil carbon pool of the increase in global temperatures as well as the measures that can be adopted to fight the decline of soil organic matter. As some Community and national policies currently in place may hinder the implementation of appropriate measures to maintain the soil carbon pool and reverse the decline of soil organic matter, the study will include an analysis of such negative incentives. This study does not imply the development of new research projects or the generation of new research data or any actual measurement of organic matter in the soil.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Our soil carbon now double "Captain Cook" level

"Australian landscapes now store twice as much carbon in soil and plants as they did under natural conditions." What? Twice as much as when Captain Cook arrived?

No, this is not a statement by a lunatic fringe organisation. It is taken from A summary of the National Land and Water Resources Audit's Australian Agriculture Assessment 2001 (

Given that the Commonwealth Government's Australian Greenhouse Office believes Australian soils are generically incapable of storing much carbon, this assessment rings bells for the Carbon Coalition.

The reason behind the Audit's statement is fertiliser:

"Each year more than 5 million tonnes of fertilisers are added to agricultural soils. Use of nitrogenenous fertilisers has almost doubled since 1990. Fertilisers have boosted plant production and soil nutrient levels."

Given that nitrogenenous fertilisers are as major greenhouse gas emission source, the future of the fertiliser industry (and the carbon levels in the landscape) is questionable.

More political support for soils

The Greens and the Democrats have seen seen the light: (We briefed Sen. Christine Milne last year.)

The Australian Democrats' strategy for 60% greenhouse reduction by 2050 includes the following:

"Reward and support farming communities to encourage low carbon agricultural practices. The agricultural sector will be a large beneficiary of carbon trading schemes through practices that increase soil carbon retention with more organic and low till practices as well as through soil and bio-sequestration, such as tree planting."

The Australian Greens have a similar position:

"The Australian Greens will promote ecologically sustainable approaches to land use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon in soil, and offer incentives for implementation."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Australian Farmers start their own emission trading scheme

Australia's farmers have stolen a march on the Prime Minister and started their own emissions trading scheme. Carbon Farmers of Australia have started selling "Australian Farm Soil Credits" to Australians wanting to strike a blow against global warming.

"We are a farmer-run enterprise dedicated to giving farm families a new revenue stream out of the biggest commodity market in history: the carbon market," says Michael Kiely of Carbon Farmers.

"Sales have started already, with no promotion. The demand is there," says Mr Kiely. "We already have 20 farmers on our books sequestering soil carbon to meet demand. We're not waiting for governments. Markets don't need government approval."

The trade is entirely online, with sales being made on and farmers recruited on

Carbon Farmers of Australia is selling carbon credits for $25/tonne, most of which goes to the farmer. "Buyers will know where their tonne is and who grew it. They can even come out and visit it."

Carbon Farmers of Australia is the trading arm of the CArbon Coalition Against Global Warming, a farmers' movement which has campaigned since 2005 for soil carbon credit trading.

"In 2003 Treasury advised the Treasurer Peter Costello to introduce an emissions trading scheme. Here in 2007, we have a task force looking into it. With gross emissions rocketing higher than in 2003 and running away, the Australian Government finally admits it has failed on Climate Change by rushing through a range of kneejerk reactions such as lightbulb replacement and rainforest projects in Asia. How can anyone say they are serious about Climate Change?"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Invitation to join Carbon Farmers of Australia


"There is a tide in the affairs of men,*
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries."

*And women.

The time has come to act on our beliefs. With no promotion, we have made 2 sales of soil carbon in a test marketing exercise. These are the only transactions in which money has changed hands for soil carbon credits in Australia to date. They prove that soil carbon can be traded and that a market exists for it.

In the absence of a standard methodology for direct measurement of soil C sequestration, but in the expectation that one will emerge within the next 3 years, we have developed "Provisional Carbon Credits" which rely on proxies and imputations to indicate carbon sequestration. The simple offering we make is 2 tonne CO2 per hectare (0.6t C) per year in soil where there has been a change in land management since 1990 (the Kyoto cut off date). The change in land management can be till to no till, crop to pasture or set stocking to grazing management. We are basing the amounts very conservatively on the attached indicative data, sourced from AGO and peer-reviewed sources. One of the authors of the AGO's Technical Report 43, a very prominent government scientist whose permission I do not have to name, for obvious reasons, is satisfied with the 'realistic' nature of our offering.

These "farm soil credits" are called 'provisional' because that is what they are: provisional until a direct measurement/full value methodology is available to us. When this happens, we would expect that the much higher figure for soil C sequestered would be revealed in the hectares already 'sold'. The space originally allocated would then be scaled back to represent 2 tonnes CO2 and the balance of the space released so that the soil C it contains can be traded. In this way neither the original buyer nor the landholder are disadvantaged. But it allows trading to start - which is important for the mission of the Carbon Coalition: achieving trade in soil C and engaging as many hectares as possible in the C sequestration that the planet needs urgently.

We have been working with soil authorities on a visual audit regime which they can administer. It is a simple five dimensional score card, covering groundcover, ploughing, controlled traffic, perenniality and biodiversity. A weighting factor is applied by region (plains, slopes and tablelands) to make allowances for temperature and rainfall. It is still being refined and will be presented at our next summit meeting between soil scientists and growers, to be held on 14 June at Orange, at the University. You are invited.

WE have packaged the CO2 for the 'Voluntary Carbon Market' - the retail market that exists outside the regulatory framework that is required for policing the need to reach mandatory abatement targets. Buyers in the voluntary market are volunteering to contribute towards the effort to redeem the planet in its climate crisis and care about where the carbon offsets come from. They look for a bundled offering: CO2 + cause + good works. In the trade it is called "gourmet carbon". The 'feel good' factor is critical. Brand X credits are not attractive to this market. Companies buy voluntarily to make a contribution and to make a statement about themselves. (Our first sale was a subscription for 2 tonnes/month from Pancake Parlor, a chain in Victoria. They are promoting the soil C story in their restaurants. See the Coalition blog.) People attracted to the soil story, people who want to encourage farmers and rural communities, and those interested in promoting regenerative farm practices will be attracted to our offering.

The core target audience we have selected is 'baby boomer grandparents' who a quietly desperate about climate change, can see no leadership or reassurance in the political sphere, and who fret that they won't be there to protect their grandchildren when things get out of hand. We are anticipating that they will welcome an opportunity to make a real impact on CO2 levels now by investing in healthy soil's powerful capacity to sequester. (There will be many other markets we haven't anticipated.) We will be relying on publicity to drive traffic to our website.

The amounts we are charging are based on the standard market voluntary one-off purchase price of $30/tonne CO2. We are charging $59/2tonnes CO2 and $46/2tonnes/month as a subscription (2 tonnes being the estimated emissions by an individual per month). The price of CO2 on the European market was 0.5 euros (80¢) when I looked just now, and US$3.75 on the Chicago Climate Exchange, or AUD$4.56. That's the commodity market, which serves the mandatory, 'grudge purchase' buyer. (The CCX takes 30% out of that price for soil credits traded for admin and auditing.) Long term predictions have the price up near €20.

We are bundling into our offering a contribution to the work of the Carbon Coalition to finance the unpaid activities - research, conferences, lobbying, presentations, travel, administration - that is required to achieve our goals. Now is not the time to take the foot off the accelerator. While success seems closer, and there are several groups trialling direct measurement methodologies, none are guaranteed of acceptance by the AGO and IPART (the weights and measures authorities). If the past is a guide, every obstacle will be placed in their way. Simply demonstrating soil C sequestration may not be enough. Public pressure must be applied, and a flourishing voluntary market is the best sort of pressure to apply.

The final "split" will be negotiated once we know audit and admin costs. But be assured, maximum return to the landholder is our basic principle.

We are inviting growers to register their interest at

What does all this commit you to? Nothing. You can decide when you will be involved. You are not expected to put all your hectares up for 'sale' in one lot. Best to be flexible. For one reason, the prices could fluctuate wildly. For another, a new model could be approved which delivers higher prices immediately. We can envisage growers being involved in a number of schemes simultaneously. We are recommending 5 year contracts to give maximum flexibility... because 2012 is the beginning of Kyoto 2, which will most likely have emissions from agriculture as a category for capping. (We believe this will largely affect traditional tillers, those applying nitrogenous fertilizers, and those overgrazing. Methane is problematic - apparently termites emit more methane than livestock. But we'll see.)

You will find the website we intend to promote at The eventual address will be - following on from our successful adoptasheep exercise. Although it is a personal appeal to the reader in the introduction, it is delivered on behalf of "Carbon Farmers".

If you have any advice or observations, please make them.



PS. We are still tinkering with the sites.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Carbon Farmers of Australia makes historic first soil credit sale

The first money changed hands for soil carbon in Australia on the 6th of March, 2007. Samantha Meadmore-Jewel, Organic Food Research and Development Executive for The Lovely Pancakes Restaurant Group, made the first ever purchase of Australian soil credits on the 6th of March when she bought Australian Farm Soil Credits from Carbon Farmers of Australia.

We have since made other sales, but we especially celebrate this first - through our online site - because it made history. It proved the naysayers wrong. It started the ball rolling towards soil sequestration and struck a blow against global warming... And it has shaken up the market. It has been since the 6th of March that the momentum has been building.

The Pancake Parlour’s plans to use the involvement with soil sequestration have expanded to form a campaign on the subject involving an educational program via the tables of the 10 The Pancake Parlour outlets in Victoria. For parents with small children, colouring sheets with comic strip format explanations for parents on the flip side, feature simple explanations and diagrams introducing difficult topics such as global warming and photosynthesis… they are brilliantly designed.

For the customer who is interested there are web links listed to follow via The Pancake Parlour website if they should wish to also sponsor the Carbon Coalition and a 3 page leaflet of extensive information taken from Dr. Christine Jones’, soil ecology notes with her web address to further get all the information they want. There will be a poster and eventually table cards will be positioned for a short time to further direct the less child oriented customers. This will surely impact the weekly 25,000 customers that visit The Pancake Parlours and spread the word about soil C and Climate Change.

Congratulations Lovely Pancakes. A true leader. Lovely!