Monday, July 11, 2011

A $1.3bn Magic Pudding for Agriculture

The Gillard Government has announced a $1.3bn package of assistance to Agriculture under the Carbon Tax. This is how the Government announced it. [Our observations in brackets.]

Boosting wider land action

The Government will purchase carbon credits through the Carbon Farming Initiative non-Kyoto Carbon Fund. This $250 million program over six years will create incentives to undertake land-based action such as the storing of soil carbon, revegetation and forest conservation. [This is a blatant adoption of the Opposition's Direct Action approach for agriculture. It was an initiative promoted by Senator Christine Milne in the Multi-Party negotiations.]

Credits from these projects can also be sold to companies wanting to offset their carbon pollution to meet voluntary commitments to carbon neutrality. [These offsets still have to meet the stringent Kyoto requirements which are enshrined in the Carbon Farming Initiative Integrity Standards].

Australia will continue working to develop new international rules that recognise a wider range of action to reduce pollution on the land. In future, this may allow landholders to sell credits from a wider variety of projects to companies with obligations under the carbon price. [Australia is campaigning to haveArticle 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocols repealed because they block the sale of agricultural offsets on the international compliance market. They force nations wishing to report their agricultural emissions to include non-man made emissions such as those caused by drought or fire.]

Conservation tillage

The Carbon Farming Futures program will include specific support for conservation tillage equipment. This will be delivered by a 15 per cent refundable tax offset for eligible equipment. This will incentivise farmers to move to zero till and minimum tillage farming techniques which can enhance soil carbon, water retention and productivity. [This was an initiative promoted by Tony Windsor MP in the Multi Party Negotiations.]

Farmers will be required to participate in research and methodology development to assist efforts to settle methods for crediting soil carbon under the Carbon Farming Initiative. [A 15% refundable tax offset will not be enough to turn a conviction deep cultivator into a zero-tiller. We need carbon offsets for zero till, which will require abandoning the Additionality Principle.]

Carbon Farming Futures

The Carbon Farming Futures program will deliver $429 million over six years to help farmers and other landholders benefit from financial opportunities under the Carbon Farming Initiative:

  • support will be provided for research to investigate new ways of storing carbon and reducing emissions in the land sector, including biochar and biofuels
  • this ongoing program will support landholders to take action such as testing new ways to increase soil carbon and reduce emissions
  • new funding will be made available to test more effective methods for measuring carbon stored in soils and to integrate carbon farming into everyday farm business
  • extension officers and outreach activities will give landholders access to information to help them benefit from carbon farming.

[This is fantastic news because Minister Combet told us there was no more $$$ for research after the $25m Soil Carbon Research Program ran out next year. Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor gave strong voice of asupport for soil carbon during the negotiations. However, more funds should not be an excuse for delaying action on trading. The sooner we can get the highest number of farmers sequestering carbon the better. The next drought is coming.]

The ongoing Biodiversity Fund has been allocated $946 million over the first six years of the program and will support projects that establish, restore, protect or manage biodiverse carbon stores. Funding will be provided for establishing mixed species plantings in targeted areas, such as areas of high conservation value including wildlife corridors, riparian zones and wetlands. [A billion dollars for planting trees? It seems the Greens drove a hard bargain. There are ways to use trees that increases the productivity of farms and ways that do not. Note well.]

The Fund will also support action to prevent the spread of invasive species across connected landscapes and the management of existing biodiverse carbon stores. This includes land already under conservation covenants, subject to land clearing restrictions, and publicly owned native forests

Regional Planning for Climate Change

Regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisations are well placed to help plan for climate change and to maximise the social and environmental benefi ts of carbon farming projects. Around $44 million over five years will go to make regional NRM plans climate-ready. This will include funding to develop detailed scenarios on climate change impacts on a regional level. The plans will guide where biosequestration projects should be located in the landscape. This whole of region approach will help to maximise the benefits for biodiversity, water and agricultural production. The plans will provide an assessment of how projects can maximise landscape resilience, improving each region’s ability to tackle and adapt to Australia’s changing climate.

[This is disturbing and could have fatal consequences for soil carbon and sequestration.The market does not need more regulation and bureaucracy . The soil carbon offset is something that is hard enough to sell to farmers as it is without the intrusion of environmental agencies telling farmers where they can establish projects and how to run them. It could scare farmers off.]

[Over the coming days we will seek more detail from the Government.]

No comments: