Monday, April 20, 2009

Their Silence Condemns

The Silence about the injustice of the treatment Agriculture is getting from the CPRS Legislation, speaks volumes. Complaining it is 'too hard' to understand the issues surrounding Agriculture and the Scheme, many who do very well out of the industry, are willing to see farm families deprived of the capacity to offset their methane and nitrous oxide emissions by using the value of the soil carbon they sequester.

This will speed the depopulation of the Murray-Darling Basin and other regions and lead to the displacement of the family farm. It will be an evil outcome, born of injustice.

Evil can succeed only when the good refuse to stand against it. (Edmund Burke) The only voice to call for justice is that of Ross Garnaut who accuses the majority of decision-makers of laziness and refusal to engage mentally with the issues. Falling back on the 'too hard' line suits the Government. The wilful refusal to engage with the issue of soil carbon trading has been plain for all to see. Speakers from all kinds of backgrounds have been willing to assume the role of expert on trading mechanisms in raising questions about the realities of the market. None seek answers, only pose questions which are supposed to stand as arguments. It seems that everyone has an opinion, but no one professes knowledge of the issue. Not one has mentioned the fundamental commodity trading tools which protect buyers and sellers.
They tried to scare farmers off by telling them they would be acting as unprotected individuals in the market and that they would have to pay back any money they get if there is a fire, etc. The facts are easily obtainable by consulting the practices of the markets that are operating already: Canada and the USA. Growers are pooled and losses by misadventure are managed by a "Buffer Pool" representing 30% of the tonnes submitted for sale. Other techniques for 'making good' losses include starting over the sequestration process until the make good level has been reached. Further practicalities ignored by the fear-mongers include the fact that soil carbon is rarely destroyed by any than the fiercest fires, and that forests are far more vulnerable.
At the same time, no one has questioned the Government's assertion that it is "too hard" to measure emissions from the ruminant animals owned by Australia's 140,000 farm enterprises. Australia has 800,000 businesses and the Tax Office has no trouble calculating their individual liabilities vis a vis the tax system. All animals are registered for sale or on annual returns. The data exists. All that is required is a model for estimating emissions by certain categories of beast under certain climate conditions. In the words of one of the most senior of Penny Wong's mandarins, "Everything is estimated under Kyoto." Nothing - except soil carbon - is directly measured.
A second 'anti-soil C trading' argument is to be found when the speaker dwells on the fractions of soil carbon, especially the labile and volatile fractions. Of the two trading schemes closest to launch, neither is concerned by the volatility of these fractions, one measuring only the humic fractions and the other Total Carbon*.
A carefully orchestrated series of 'communications themes' that have been amplified through certain journals and in many seminars have included such classics as "Too old and degraded to sequester" (a nonsense), "Costs too much to grow humus" (soil biology doesn't exist), "Don't think about credits, think soil health" (an insult), and the latest: "Don't believe the myths" (ie.
forget soil carbon. There is no Hope. Give up.)
Given the damage that could be done to farm family incomes, rural communities, and regional economies by the operation of an "unbalanced GHG balance sheet" as a result of the combined efforts of these individuals and institutions, the Carbon Coalition is believes there should be a judicial inquiry into the activities of certain parties.

*Buyers are not interested in particular molecules of C. They are concerned about the quantum. Therefore the volatility of the fractions is irrelevant. What matters is that Total C moves from A to A+X over period Y. They pay for X. The X value is to be held... not the particular molecules that made up X on day 1 of the relevant time period.

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