Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Carbon Credited" Produce launched

The first "Carbon Credited" produce has hit the market. Wool grown on "Uamby" has been branded "Carbon Credited" as an awareness-raising exercise while sufficient woolgrowers are being recruited to give the program the critical mass needed to meet the demand from Europe. A specialist wool broker, experienced in the organic wool market, has been engaged to help build supply. Growers qualify for "Carbon Credited" status when they embark on an emissions reduction program. The Carbon Coalition has applied to join the Australian Greenhouse Office's Greenhouse Challenge as an association. This allows members to get involved in the process. Emissions reduction starts with calculation of your enterprise's carbon footprint, via an "Audit". This stage is followed by an "Assessment" stage where available means of reduction are identified. Initially the third stage - 'Abatement', which means creating or buying offsets - is not required by the AGO's Greenhouse Challenge. But it will be eventually. This is where soil carbon credits become critical to the farm 'greenhouse economy'. And this is a further reason why the Carbon Coalition must continue to seek the right of landholders to the value they can produce in soil carbon. The process of becoming carbon neutral is not immediate. It is a process of stages or milestones on the way to neutrality. Interested woolgrowers and producers in other markets can contact Carbon Credited™ Producers on 02 6374 0329 or email louisa@carboncoalition.com.au

"We're fighting your war..."

"We're fighting your war, with no resources and no support." The Carbon Coalition took this message to the NSW Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water Philip Koperberg at Bathurst on 22nd August, 2007. He promised to visit "Uamby" to talk about carbon farming. The Coalition delivered copies of its papers on "Politics and the Science of Soil Carbon" and "A Practical Guide to Climate Change Mitigation". As well, the Minister was told firmly that we need $3million for serious carbon farming trials and want free soil carbon baseline measurement for every grower in the State. The Minister encouraged us to seek further meetings with his advisers to further our cause.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Updated FAQs for Carbon Farmers

Many questions have arisen which challenge believers in the possibility of a market for soil carbon credits to respond. Here are the answers we have collectively developed (and your contribution is welcomed - michael@carboncoalition.com.au):

Q. There are many questions about Global Warming and the role of CO2. How can you be sure Climate Change is real?

A. You don't need to believe in Global Warming. It may or may not be real. But what is real is the market-based response the world has adopted, even the USA and Australia. The climate sceptics, despite the sincerity of their beliefs, are not going to stop the carbon market emerging as a global response. Australian land managers will be expected to address their emissions, like any other industry. But unlike many industries, agriculture has the capacity to capture and store carbon. These can be used to help offset emissions. The economics of agriculture will shift and we must be prepared to shift ahead of it.

Q. The official position is that our soils can't capture and store much carbon because they are too old, too degraded to put on more than a minor amount of carbon in 20 years. This is the conclusion of the scientists who compiled our National Carbon Accounts System and Minister McGauran and many organisations like the Farm Institute and the Grains Council have poured cold water on soil carbon sequestration as a possibility. It seems like a lot of trouble for little gain. Why bother?

A.1. We believe the science on which the Australian Greenhouse Office bases its advice to the Commonwealth Government and the industry is flawed because it studied only traditional farming techniques that have been stripping the carbon out of Australian soils for 200 years. They did not study progressive land management techniques that grow soil carbon, eg. grazing management, pasture cropping, biological farming, and combinations of these techniques. The National Carbon Inventory project was designed to reveal how bad things are, not how good thigs can be. The recent commissioning of two projects to study 'carbon farming' techniques is almost an admission of the gaps in the data sets. Meanwhile the official position remains unchanged.

A.2. The Australian Greenhouse Office and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) say that agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions from livestock (methane) and fertilizer (nitrous oxide) are greater than the entire transport industry. Graziers are going to be presented with a bill for their stock's emissions, in the same way companies that own the coal-burning power stations have been forced to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions. We believe soil carbon credits will be needed to help landholders offset their emissions liability. If the agriculture industry does not engage the issue head on, it will be treated as the NFF was treated by the Commonwealth Government's Task Force on Carbon Trading: we won't have a seat at the table when the decisions are being made. (We are the No. 2 emitter, yet we did not have a place on the Task Force. The no.3 emitter - Transport - was included.) If this continues to be the approach of Government, we can expect to be treated as the landholders stripped of their rights to clear woody weeds were treated.)

A.3. Eventually extreme weather events plus the failure of popular solutions to gain traction should make officialdom more open-minded. But we can't afford to wait 10 years while they change their minds, according to Stern and NASA.

Q. Primary producers will be expected to account for the whole carbon footprint of a farming enterprise. This means becoming liable for the methane emissions from livestock (which are 23 times more potent than CO2) and nitrogenous fertilisers (N2O is 300+ times more potent than CO2). Doesn't this make it dangerous to get involved in the carbon market? Do we have more to lose than to gain?

A. We have two choices: Choice 1 - stay out of the market and allow the Government to 'encourage' us to adopt 'best practice' solutions, managed by a 'benchmarking' system, dictated by a scientific regime that has a track record of methodological mistakes based on failure to understand processes being undertaken on properties. Choice 2 - demand to be allowed to join in the market on an even playing field. Get the science right on soil carbon and get the science right on methane and nitrous oxide.**

Q. Under Kyoto principles, all sequestration techniques must obey the "100 year rule". How can we guarantee we won't lose soil carbon for 100 years?

A.1. Soil Carbon Credits are being sold on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) on 4 year contracts. Kyoto is only part of the solution.

A.2. The 100 Year Rule is inappropriate for biosequestration (forest, soils). It makes investing in forests highly risky in Australia's environment where wildfires will become more regular. Yet forests are in short supply, such is the demand for them.

A.3. The 100 Year Rule is a Kyoto Rule. The Kyoto rules apply to Kyoto Round One, which ends 2012. The Kyoto Protocols aren't the 10 Commandments. Round One was a learning stage. Mistakes were made. The Carbon Coalition believes - based on our analysis that soil can make a big contribution in the next 30 years while technology solutions come on line* - that vegetation and soil carbon should be covered by a 30 year rule.

Q. Will selling the soil carbon in my paddocks reduce my flexibility to farm in ways that meet my immediate needs?

A. We recommend that you don't commit you entire holding to a contract. Instead we advise that you select certain parts of your land for carbon trading. You don't have to commit to any one trading group. You could enter a CCX-like contract for a section and a full price/direct measurement for another. If you can't see yourself persisting with carbon farming techniques, you should not engage in long term contracted arrangements.

Q. Do you have to sign a contract that makes you liable to legal action if you fail to observe its conditions?

A. A soil carbon contract is like any other contract: you make a commitment to capture and store carbon. You can have provisions for make good on defaulting, insurance, etc. For instance, if you lost carbon due to an event such a a bushfire or a drought, you could be required to replace it (start again). Or your insurance that is built into the aggregator arrangement could cover it. At the end of the day, if you don't like the conditions in a contract, don't sign it.

*Soils can start sequestering carbon immediately on a vast scale - 65% of the land surface of the earth is controlled by farmers who could change their land management techniques overnight, given sufficient incentive. But soils reach an equilibrium point where they are saturated with carbon. This can take 20 or 30 years. This is the opportunity for soils because all other solutions need time to come on stream. Forests take 5 to 10 years to stop net emitting, and hit their stride in 20 to 50 years. (And, according to researchers at the University of Tasmania, it would take 7 planet Earths covered with forest to absorb the excess CO2 already in the atmosphere.) Clean Coal and Nuclear Power will take 15-20 years to reach critical mass. Solar power won't reach significant capacity for 20 years. The prospects for wind power are similar. Soils can hold the line while other solutions come on line. But only for up to 30 years. Hence the 30 Year Rule.

**The questions over the science of soil carbon are explained in A.1. The methodological problems with methane are indicated by the following: the reason given for excluding agriculture from the carbon market is the difficulty of measuring emissions from so many enterprises. So they have no individual scores for methane and nitrous oxide, yet they have an aggregate figure which they claim shows agriculture emits more than the transport industry. How can they have a macro figure with no micro figures? Estimates. What are the estimates based on? AGO documents reveal that the estimated methane emissions of cattle grazing on open pasture are based on a study of British cattle in 1965, augmented with various smaller local studies. The team working on N2O discovered their estimates were wildly out because they were based on Northern Hemisphere studies.


Agricultural Rural & Education Centre, Mudgee
9.00am- 5.00pm, 16th-17th November, 2007

Carbon credits for soil and trees
Soil Carbon Calculators
Characteristics of a Carbon Farm
What is your “carbon footprint’?
Animals and Emissions – Methane
Fertiliser Emissions - measurement and calculations
Farm Efficiencies - How to reduce your footprint.
Plus displays on many Carbon Farming techniques, including grazing management, pasture cropping, ‘No Kill” cropping, biological farming, biochar, composting, and more…


SPEAKERS: Invitations have been sent to the world's most senior soil carbon scientists - overseas and in Australia - and Australia's best 'carbon cockies'.

EXPO: Opportunities for suppliers of carbon farming products and services to display their offerings and to speak to gatherings of attendees. (Call 02 6374 0329)

TRADING LAUNCH: The launch of Carbon Farmers of Australia - the first open market for farm soil credits - which is currently being refined with an audit system and tradingterms and conditions.

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: A range of sponsorship opportunities are there for companies, including naming rights, signage rights, and other communications channels are available for far-sighted brands. (Call 02 6374 0329)


Presented by the Central West Catchment Management Authority, the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, the Department of Primary Industries, the Australian Soil Science Society, Carbon Farmers of Australia (Carbon Coalition), the Conservation Agriculture Farmers’ Association, and STIPA


(Our thanks to Lowe Family Wines for becoming our first sponsor)

(Our thanks to Cam McKellar for the photo)


MEET ALBERT OATES. THE SCIENTIST/FARMER. (OR FARMER/SCIENTIST.) He is NSW DPI Soil Physics Technical Officer on the $246,000 study of the role of pastures in locking up carbon under a range of management practices in central and southern NSW. He visted us this week to check "Uamby" out for suitability as a test site.

Albert is a scientist who raises cattle on a family farm in the Wagga district.
In the DPI's press release, ALbert said it was important the positive role of pastures in sequestering carbon within the soil be better understood and measured.
“Keeping carbon in the soil as organic material reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And increasing soil organic material improves the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil,” he said.

He said Australian farmed soils were generally relatively low in soil organic carbon. “It’s not easy to accumulate organic material in a hot, dry climate under continuous cropping. The pasture phase provides the opportunity to rebuild organic matter levels in the soil. Soils under permanent pasture may have the greatest potential to lock-up carbon dioxide as soil organic matter.”

The three-year project will be led by Soil Physicist Dr Yin Chan with input from our own Soil Scientist Dr Brian Murphy* of DNR and ALbert. The researchers are keen to hear from farmers who may have paddocks with a known history suitable for inclusion in the study.“Of particular interest would be paired paddocks, which allow comparisons to be made. Examples include cropped versus old perennial pasture, annual pasture versus perennial and set-stocked versus rotationally grazed.If a farmer has a paddock likely to be of very high organic carbon status that would also be of interest.”

Dr Chan may be contacted on (02) 4588 2108 and Albert Oates on (02) 6938 1874.

PICTURED with Albert Oates at "Uamby" are Louisa Kiely (Co-Convenor, Carbon Coalition) and Kodie, the Kelpie pup.

*Brian Murphy has been a driving force behind the SOIL SCIENCE SUMMITS (meetings between soil scientists and farmers to share knowledge and build understanding). Brian's standing in the scientific community is well recognised and we are in his debt. The Summits - there have been two one-day events so far - are held to address the yawning gap in understanding out of which flawed methodologies emerge (and farmers' misunderstandings). The third summit is an expanded event: a world first. CARBON FARMING EXPO AND CONFERENCE, 16th and 17th November, 2007, AREC, Mudgee. Call 02 6374 0329 for information.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Beef and dairy producers for the chop


The Australian Greenhouse Office want Australia's cattle herd reduced. The British Government is planning to push people to become vegetarians. And the ABC is behind the same push. It all comes down to methane. Cows burping greenhouse gases.
The Carbon Cops have a "DID YOU KNOW?" section on their website which states: "If everyone in Australia were vegetarian and we didn't grow meat for export, we'd cut our emissions by around 54 million tonnes."
In the UK, the Guardian reports that the government unveiled a plan to introduce labels on all products, showing the greenhouse gas emissions created by their production, transport and eventual disposal, similar to the calorie count figures." The Guardian reveales that "an email by an official at the Environment Agency recently leaked to the vegetarian and vegan campaign group Viva showed that the government is also examining the various environmental impacts of the nation's diet. 'The potential benefits of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact could be very significant,' said the email, adding that recommending eating less meat as one of the 'key environmental behaviour changes' needed to save the planet was being considered." In a chilling burst of social engineering, the report concluded: "It also said that the change would have to be introduced "gently" because of "the risk of alienating the public".
According to a report published last year by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the global livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transport. It warned: "The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level." The key is that the livestock sector produces a much larger share of greenhouse gases that are more harmful than CO², such as nitrous oxide (296 times more impact than CO²) and methane (23 times more impact). "At the very least, people need to think about cutting down their meat and dairy consumption to help the environment," says Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager at the vegetarian campaign charity Viva. "The meat-based diet most people eat is completely unsustainable, but we are starting to see people make the shift. The amount of vegans in the UK has increased 10-fold in the past 10 years and is now around one million."
But research at Cardiff found that adopting a vegetarian diet would result in only a small reduction (5.9%) in footprint. The big winner will be chicken. "The least greenhouse gas-intensive meat is actually a battery chicken," says Tara Garnett from the Food Climate Research Network.
A 2005 study led by WWF Cymru put poultry at the top of the carbon-friendly meat list, followed by pork. Beef and veal were the most energy intensive meats. Lamb falls somewhere in the middle as sheep produce lots of methane.
Finally you only have to look in the AGO's documents to see what is planned for Australian farmers: smaller herds: "An obvious management practice would be to run fewer animals, but to manage each animal to be more productive. By improving genetic and nutritional management, production can be maintained from a smaller herd," says Dr Richard Eckard, Program Manager Greenhouse in Agriculture CRC for Greenhouse Accounting. They also ping stocking numbers for nitrogen released as greenhouse gas: "Animal stocking rate – The higher the stocking rate the higher the volume of nitrogen deposited in dung and urine per unit area. Dung and urine are very inefficiently recycled in the soil plant system, with up to 60% of the nitrogen in a urine patch being lost to the environment. Higher stocking rate systems demand a higher nitrogen input regime (either fertiliser or imported feed) and thus result in a higher nitrogen content excreted in urine... A higher stocking rate also leads to greater pugging (hoof compaction) of the soil; pugged soils tend to be more anaerobic due to hoof compaction leading to higher nitrous oxide losses." THIS IS PLAINLY WRONG. UNDER GRAZING MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS STOCKING RATES CAN BE INCREASED BECAUSE THE LONGER REST PERIODS FOR THE PASTURE MEANS MORE VEGETATION IS GROWN, HENCE MORE FEED.

This is another example of glaring holes in the AGO's knowledge of the reality of modern farming. Under grazing management, higher stock numbers managed appropriately are better for pasture growth and sequestration. Peter Holter of Holistic Management International responded to the Guardian article: He suggests that, instead of reducing herd numbers, we aggressively work to change our methods of livestock management and allow animals to graze out on pastures in a controlled manner. With over two decades of experience, HMI has found that the benefits of controlled grazing are that:
1. Animals release their manure into the soil with more even distribution.
2. When animal hooves work the soil, manure is more quickly absorbed - increasing the soil’s organic matter, fertilizing it, and making it healthier.
3. A larger base of healthy soil absorbs more carbon dioxide, reduces the amounts of methane released into the atmosphere, and has a positive impact on global warming.
Grazing management practitioners are also dumbstruck that feedlot animals - according to the scientists - emit less methane than pasture fed animals.
This is becoming a very serious issue for landholders and the Carbon Coalition urges all graziers to join the fray. We must question the science, especially the methodologies, and talk some sense into the politicians. ALL ROTATIONAL GRAZIERS - HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT, GRAZING FOR PROFIT, ETC. - SHOULD WRITE TO THEIR MP AD THE MINISTER FOR LIGHT BULBS ALERTING THEM TO THE DANGEROUS DECISIONS OF THEIR SCIENTISTS.


UNDER THE HEADLINE "Carbon trading to be part of business for Aust farmers", Rachel O’Neill, head of nabCapital’s Carbon Solutions Group was reported as telling a conference in Melbourne what the members of Carbon Farmers of Australiaa know: that the Voluntary Market is still available to Australian farmers:
"Farms can still participate in carbon emissions trading even though they have been excluded from the new Australian Climate Change policy, released in July," she said.
Ms O’Neill believes the time is right in Australia for innovative approaches to carbon trading and the development of new offset methodologies.
“There were practical reasons why the sector was not included, mainly to do with measurement uncertainties for carbon on-farm and the administration costs of many small sites, but the sector can still participate by generating ‘offsets’ for use in the scheme." 'Such potential offsets may include changes to fertilising practices and reduced land clearing as well as a move to farming practices such as no till which increases the carbon sequestered in the soil,' said the press release.
"Ms O’Neill told the conference there is already a voluntary carbon exchange operating in Chicago in the United States which provides examples of how farmers in Australia could be involved in carbon trading in the future...
“The Chicago Climate Exchange is expected to trade almost 12 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2007, with carbon credits trading at around $US3.80/tonne. In one example, farmers are earning greenhouse gas offsets through practising conservation tillage and planting grasses and trees."
“NAB is already building capacity in carbon financing through our nabCapital Carbon Solutions Group, which we formed in 2006 to identify the opportunities in the evolving carbon finance market,” Ms O’Neill said.
“We’re keen to assist clients manage their risks and take advantage of the new markets that are emerging. I have no doubt that carbon trading will soon be a part of every day business management for Australia’s forward thinking farmers.”
Hooray for the NAB.