Friday, July 18, 2008

Green Paper fits Coalition Strategy

The National Soil Carbon Strategy is aligned with the schedule set by the Government's Green paper. The Strategy (extract below) sees the introduction of a Voluntary Market as a precursor to inclusion in the Kyoto Mandatory Market. Anyone who doubts the latter will happen hasn't been watching the weather. The times will suit soil carbon.
The reasoning behind the Government's decision to stick with the status quo is hard to follow. Instead of incentivising farmers and graziers to build up carbon stocks in their soils and the associated vegetation to act as a buffer against drought and higher temperatures, the Government says we shouldn't take the risk of releasing huge tonnages of gases through drought or bushfire. Naturally they have no science to support their decision because none has been done to assess how drought and fire would affect carbon farms.

There are many contradictions in this Green Paper. They will be unravelled in coming posts. However, the following is our response to the Government's curiously old-fashioned attitude to soil carbon.


The strategy proposed is a progression to Direct Measurement/Full Value Offsets in the following stages:

Stage 1: Remove barriers to Indicator/Discounted Value (Voluntary) Offsets market.

Stage 2: Launch Indicator/Discounted Value Offsets Market

Stage 3: Remove barriers to Direct Measurement/Full Value (Mandatory) Offsets market.

Stage 4: Launch Direct Measurement/Full Value Offsets market.

Method: We shall remove barriers systematically by studying them to discover solutions.

Stage 1: Barriers

A Voluntary Market System can operate with the following:

Data: soil carbon scores from a locality, district and climate zone based on land management techniques.

Recommendation: a commission of scientists to provide a recommended set of soil carbon levels for a defined set of land management practices at particular locations.

Standard: The protocols and practices that dictate the fundamental processes that are required for purchasers to feel confident that their interests are protected and their objectives are acheved.

Recommendation: Develop the Australian Voluntary Soil Carbon Standard (already at draft stage, in development by organics industry standards authority NAASA)

Removal of Stage 1 Barriers:

1. Establish the National Soil Carbon Database

• A central warehouse of all soil carbon data in Australia.

• Accessible by anyone wanting to use the data.

• Resource for populating carbon calculators with localized soil carbon data.

• Start with “Soil Carbon Data Roundup” – gain access to all data held by government and private laboratories, research institutions, and anyone who holds data.

2. Commission of Scientists

• Review data available.

• Meet to develop a recommended set of soil carbon levels for a defined set of land management practices at particular locations.

3. Establish Australian Voluntary Carbon Market Standard

Stage 2: Barriers

A Mandatory Market System can operate with the following:

Measurement Methodology: a method of estimating amounts of carbon in a defined volume of soil.

Consensus on Methodology: agreement among buyers and regulators that the system is sufficiently accurate as to allow confidence in levels of uncertainty
And risk management.

Cost of Measurment: cost of ‘baseline’ carbon scoring for individual landholder is described as “high” by scientists.

Removal of Stage 2 Barriers:

1. National Soil Carbon Baselining Program

• Option: The Commonwealth Government can take on task of baselining all properties as part of a Natural Resource Management program.

• Cost of baselining reduced by national tender process, open to international suppliers.

• Offset NRM costs and drive restoration programs.

• Option: Landholders pay low price negotiated by Government.

2. Commission of scientists recommend a baselining methodology.

• Review available technologies and methodologies.

• Recommend methodology.

3. Commonwealth Government endorse decision.

4. Launch Market in Australia

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