Friday, August 19, 2011

Farm Carbon Credits: What's IN, What's OUT?

Although the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 is being filibustered in the Senate, it will pass on the numbers. The CFI enables crediting of abatement of greenhouse gas in the land sector which is achieved by: · reducing or avoiding emissions, for example, through capture and destruction of methane emissions from livestock manure; or · removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil or trees. Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) will be issued for each tonne of abatement generated by such activities. These units will be able to be sold into a variety of domestic and international markets; Kyoto ACCUs can be converted into Kyoto units and sold into international compliance markets. Projects will only generate ACCUs if they meet scheme eligibility requirements. One requirement is ‘the additionality test’. A 'positive list' identifies activities that are not considered to be common practice within relevant industries or environments. If a project consists of activities listed in the positive list, and is not required to be carried out by law, then the project passes the additionality test. The positive list will grow over time as new abatement activities are identified.

Activities on the positive list

1. Establishment of permanent environmental plantings after 1 July 2007. Environmental plantings consist of species native to the local area, typically a mix of trees and understorey species but can be single species where monocultures naturally occur. Permanent environmental plantings are not harvested but may undergo thinning for ecological purposes and removal of firewood and bush foods for household use.

2. Establishment of permanent mallee plantings after 1 July 2007. (Some mallees are harvested for production of biomass energy and biochar. The Government is assessing how common this practice is.)

3. Re-growth of native vegetation on private land through the exclusion of stock, the management of the timing and extent of grazing, the management of feral animals, the management of weeds or cessation of mechanical or chemical destruction.

4. Restoration of drained wetlands on private land.

5. Application of biochar to soil.

6. Capture and combustion of methane from waste deposited in a landfill facility before 1 July 2012.

7. Capture and combustion of methane from livestock manure.

8. Early dry season burning of savanna areas greater than 1 km2

9. Management of feral camels on private land.

10. Using tannins as a feed supplement for ruminants (cattle and sheep)

11. Incorporating Eremophila into feed for ruminant livestock. Eremophila is a native Australian plant commonly called Emu Bush.

12. Manipulation of gut flora in ruminant livestock.

13. Application of urea inhibitors to reduce nitrification in manure.

14. Application of urea inhibitors to fertiliser.

15. Composting: Diversion of putrescible waste from a landfill facility to an alternative waste treatment facility before 1 July 2012. Alternative waste treatment facilities convert organic waste to energy, compost and other products. Household compost bins and worm farms are not considered alternative waste treatment facilities. From 1 July 2012, waste will be covered by the carbon price and no longer eligible to generate offsets.

WHERE IS SOIL? The many various land management practices that sequester soil carbon will each be subject to the 5% common practice test when soil methodologies are under consideration. This will be occurring very soon.

The negative list

The negative list identifies activities that are ineligible in circumstances where they pose a significant risk to communities or the environment.

Activities are included on the negative list if there is a high risk that they will have an adverse impact on the availability of water, the conservation of biodiversity, employment or the local community. Risks to employment and local communities could arise if carbon farming projects reduce access to agricultural land for food production or if reductions in primary production affect the viability of upstream processing facilities such as abattoirs or mills and this has a flow on effect for other producers within the region. Like the positive list, the negative list will grow over time as new methodologies are developed and risks are identified. Some activities will not pose risks when undertaken by only a few landholders, but would have impacts when undertaken on a broad scale. Activities such as these may not be included on the list when first approved, but would be added before they reached that threshold where adverse impacts could occur. Regional NRM plans will also assist is identifying and managing the cumulative adverse impacts of carbon farming projects.

Activities on the negative list

1. Projects that were mandatory at 24 March 2011.

2. Establishment of vegetation on land subject to clearing of native forest or draining of a wetland within 3 years of application as an eligible offsets project.

3. Planting a known weed species.

4. Establishment of a forest as part of a forestry managed investment scheme.· These types of projects are excluded to ensure the additive effect of the forestry managed investment scheme incentives and the CFI does not have adverse impacts on access to agricultural land, communities and employment.

5. Cessation or avoidance of harvest of a plantation forest. Projects that involve suitable management regimes, or convert a plantation forest into a permanent environmental planting, could be eligible.

6. Planting trees in an area that receives more than 600mm long-term average annual rainfall. Except when the project is a permanent environmental planting; the project contributes to the management of dryland salinity; the project holds a suitable high security water access entitlement for the life of the project.

PS> The complete document from which this was extracted is available here. It is published for comment. Please feel free to make a submission.

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