Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Voluntary Market so close you can smell it

It's too early to be popping corks, but all the signs are pointing to success in our campaign to have soil carbon traded and farmers paid fairly for what they grow. The Voluntary Market has a sense of inevitability about it. After briefings by the Carbon Coalition and its members, the Federal Coalition has got religion about soils (seeing it as a weak spot for the Government) and have hardened up their position with plans for a voluntary market in soil carbon by next year. (Read the excerpt from Malcolm Turnbull's speech in Parliament on 2nd June (below) - he is right on song with Carbon Coalition policy.
And the Government seems to have turned the corner in its attitude to soil carbon.

A Departmental Fact Sheet was quietly released in May entitled "Agriculture & the Voluntary Carbon Market, and subtitled: "A new national standard could help farmers to create and trade carbon credits in voluntary markets not recognised by the CPRS."
"Are soils & native pastures a source of carbon credits?" asks a headline on the Department of Climate Change fact sheet.

The answer seems to be YES:

"In Australia, voluntary carbon credits can only be generated from emissions sources
that are not covered under the CPRS, and do not form part of Australia’s obligations
under the Kyoto Protocol." (Tick)

"Sound management of agricultural land can play an important role in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Changes in the management of agricultural soils and native pastures that reduce emissions are potential sources of carbon credits for
voluntary markets..." (Tick)

"These activities could be used to generate carbon credits providing that:
• they are not recognised as part of Australia’s reporting obligations under the Kyoto Protocol; and
• the measurement and reporting systems used meet the National Carbon Offset Standard when it is in place." (Waiting.)

"Measuring and attributing improvements in soil carbon to management practices will be essential for meeting the additional and permanent criteria under the National Carbon Offset Standard when it is in place. (Waiting)

"To address this issue, the Government and industry partners have committed over $20 million to soil carbon research under the Climate Change Research Program." (Waiting)

Now this research is starting, and will take 3 years, and could be overtaken by events. A letter from the Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, reveals that the final National Carbon Offset Standard "is planned to be in place by mid to late 2009."

The Premier also reveals that the Department is not 100% confident that it has the skillset to develop a workable standard for soils. "The National Carbon Offset Standard will establish a process for assessing methodologies for domestic offsets from uncovered sources for sale in the voluntary market. It will be possible for proponents to bring forward methodologies for generation of offsets under the Standard and assist in reducing Australia's national emissions."

Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament on 2 June: "Our greatest comparative advantage is our real estate—770 million hectares of it. Our massive land mass is our greatest advantage. We have the ability in Australia to offset hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions through improving the soil carbon across Australia, improving the productivity of our soils and improving the productivity of our agriculture, yet that form of carbon sequestration, of carbon offset, is not to be recognised in this scheme. It is recognised in the United States. Those credits generated by farmers through more sustainable tillage and other agricultural practices are traded every day on the Chicago Climate Exchange. That is why we have proposed the establishment of a voluntary carbon market that can take advantage of credits of that kind and others, such as biochar, from the beginning of next year."

No comments: