Thursday, July 15, 2010

Waiting for a Soil Carbon Offset Unit

When the Commonwealth Government released what it calls the National Carbon Offset Standard, it did not set down the rules for making offsets. Instead it invited industry to write the rules for them: "Proponents may propose methodologies for offset projects and develop offset projects within Australia from emissions sources not counted toward Australia’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol target." Agriculture is not counted. The Carbon Coalition sees this opportunity to achieve its goal, stated in
our mission: To see soil carbon traded and farmers paid fairly for what they grow. Recognising that the investment and technical expertise to formulate a methodology that would solve the many 'problems' surrounding soil carbon trading was beyond it, the Coalition opted to provide support and advice to others willing to take the risk.
After 2 years work by a cluster of businesses and organisations, and a huge personal investment by its principal Ken Bellamy, Prime Carbon has applied for certification of six different “Offset Units” for agriculture under the National Carbon Offset Standard. That means six different ways that farmers can reduce or absorb emissions of Greenhouse Gases and be paid for it. Soil Carbon Sequestration is the first. There are also offsets proposed for reducing Nitrous Oxide emissions from fertiliser use, Soil Stewardship, Revegetation, Reduced Usage of Lime, and Water Efficiency. Other opportunities include solar power and wind turbines to generate energy to be sold back into the grid. These have been submitted and we now await the 'consultation' process promised when the Standard was released late in 2009. Greg Combet, Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change Penny Wong, told us in June that a consultation paper wold be forthcoming soon. The Government has established an independent body called the Carbon Trust to oversee the administration of the Standard. It is chaired by former Environment Minister Robert Hill and includes on its Board Tony Coleman, who first identified climate change as a major business risk while chief actuary of IAG and who subsequently played an important role in the influential "Business Forum" which carried the issue up to Government and convinced the Howard regime to change its approach. We just want a fast track to an offset unit so we can get on with saving the world. (If it is not forthcoming, the Coalition favours going to the market and letting the people decide...)

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