Sunday, July 06, 2008

The myth of the stolen carbon credits (Queensland land clearing laws)

The Queensland Government’s Native Vegetation Clearing legislation is often waved around as proof that landholders have already contributed millions of tonnes of emissions foregone and a lot of economic pain in the name of reducing Australia’s GHG liability.

Peak industry body leaders use it whenever emissions trading is the topic. But it is not true. The Queensland Government legislation was never meant to reduce Australia’s emissionsin 1997 when it was proposed, in 1999 when it was introduced, in 2000 when it was ratified. Only in 2002, when PM Howard asked for help with emissions was the Queensland native vegetation conservation repurposed for the national emissions task.

The legislation therefore fails to pass the Additionality Tests for acceptance as creating legitimate offsets. They fail because they were ‘business as usual’, ie. going to happen anyway.

Farmers were promised compensation, which they subsequently claimed they did not get. But they could not have used the tonnage of carbon saved for credits because Australia had no formal or informal trading scheme at the time.

So, if the agrpoliticians were fair dinkum, they wuldn’t seek to hide behind this furphy which carries little weight with the Commonwealth Government because they understand it for what it is: making a virtue of necessity, which spells ‘business as usual’ and doom for claiming lost or stolen carbon credits.

The relevant extracts from Hansard are included here:

Premier Beattie, Hansard (11 December 1999)

“In 1997 I promised the people of Queensland that, if elected, my Government would protect all land from unsustainable tree Previous HitclearingNext Hit and land degradation by introducing a new Vegetation Act or other appropriate regulation. … today we will deliver on this commitment. And we will deliver in a way that not only protects the unique biodiversity of this State but also gives our farmers the certainty they need to be able to plan and develop their properties on a sustainable and long-term viable basis. This is a pro-farmer, pro-sustainability of land, pro- Queensland outcome. This is in Queensland's long-term interests’”

Robert Hill, Commonwealth Minister for the Environment (Senate February 2000):

“In relation to land clearing, I accept that Australia has been overcleared and at the moment Queensland is being overcleared. The rate of clearing in Queensland is too high and it is up to the Queensland government to do something about it... To simply clear native vegetation on a broad scale basis, without understanding the health of the natural system, means that you end up with the same problems that we have in southern Australia which are costing the tax payer billions of dollars in repair.”

Premier Peter Beattie reading letter from PM John Howard (Queensland Parliament, 11 March, 2002):

“As set out in my letter to you of 24 July 2001, the commonwealth's offer to provide matching assistance recognises the national interest in reducing the high rates of land clearing specific to Queensland to assist in meeting Australia's international greenhouse commitments. As indicated in that letter, I consider that land clearing is primarily a land management issue and the responsibility of State and territory governments. I also indicated the Commonwealth would be prepared to provide a financial contribution commensurate with the reduction in emissions from land clearing negotiated and implemented by your government. Achieving a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will involve a sizeable and sustained reduction in 'business as usual' rates over the past decade beyond that flowing from the management regime and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. For example, a guaranteed reduction in the order of 20 to 25 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually could provide significant abatement to secure national outcomes from Commonwealth investment.”

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