Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Carbon Farming: “Show Me The Money”

“By farmers, for farmers” is our motto. We are farmers. Everything we do and have done in the past 6 years ago to get a market started has been to see farm carbon offsets traded and farmers paid fairly for carbon captured and emissions avoided. Carbon farming is now law. The next task is to make sure farmers will want to get involved. Farmers are saying: “Show Me The Money”. This ‘quick-read report’ tells you about 5 ways we are doing this.
The Money Tree – The first CFI activity available to the average farmer is environmental plantings. To make it easier for landholders to come to grips with this opportunity we are working on a guidebook called The Money Tree which translates the ‘meth’* into simple ‘how to’ language. It looks at the CFI planting opportunity as well as other ways to make money from trees on farm. Out soon.
Opening the Market – Carbon Farmers of Australia has opened an account on an offsets register (Markit Environmental Registry, a robust global registry to provide transparency and credibility) which enables us to assist landholders to sell their offsets. We have also opened an account with the Carbon Trade Exchange so we can purchase offsets on behalf of organizations wanting to ‘go Carbon Neutral’. And we are applying to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to be registered to provide financial services in emissions units.
Soil Carbon Methodology News – Our ‘meth’ has been before the expert panel** and we are working on responding to its requests.  We are almost ready to go back to them, once we have nailed the measurement of methane by fitting in with the National Inventory Report methodology (which is designed to report Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts to the IPCC rather than to measure one farm’s emissions). We are in touch with others working on other soil carbon meths. And we have been told that ‘the Department’ is developing protocols for measurement of soil carbon. (There are at least 3 scientists working on seperate measurement solutions.) It’s the Holy Grail of soil science. There are some fascinating facts about how wool is measured. (See below.***) The most important feature of our meth is the way it uses the wool industry’s solution to a similar problem to ‘defang’ the 100 Year Rule, which we believe removes a major barrier to farmer involvement.
Positive List News – For a land management activity (such as bioferts or tillage innovations) to be part of a CFI methodology so farmers can use it to earn offset credits it must first be accepted onto the Positive List. This is a list of activities that the Government has accepted as “Additional” (or capable of producing genuine abatement). If the activity can prove that it is not “common practice” (adopted by less than 5% of farmers in a market or location), it could be accepted for the Positive List (so long as it is not on the Negative List). We are assisting several innovators to prepare their submissions because we believe the more options that farmers have, the more farmers will get involved.
Going Carbon Neutral – To help build the market for CFI farm offsets in the voluntary market, we are offering companies wishing to go Carbon Neutral guidance to achieve that goal. Our first client is a bulk haulage company in regional NSW. The process is complex and difficult, but so is everything else to do with the CFI. We have established the baseline, estimated the changes the company will make to reduce emissions, identified the offsets to be purchased to bridge the gap, had a site visit by the verifiers (GHD – one of the world’s leading environmental auditors) and we are responding to their recommendations next week.
Don’t Be Put Off – For every negative you might hear about the CFI there is a positive that is not being mentioned. (See an example below.****) The CFI is about innovation which means solutions to problem. The negative voices are not involved in the CFI processes.  The positive are inside the process, making it better.
Your Questions – There is a lot to be confused about in the CFI, especially in the “show me the money” issues.. Call 02 6374 0329 or email with your questions.

* A ‘meth’ is a methodology or set of rules a farmer must follow to make money from the CFI.
** The DOIC – Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee. In the period between the return of our meth and our response the Interim DOIC has been replaced by the Permanent DOIC, which has at least three new members who have soil/agricultural expertise, including the Chairman Professor Timothy Reeves an international consultant with expertise in the development and extension of sustainable agricultural productions systems and crop-livestock integration. He is a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne School of Land and Environment, a director of The Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre, was a Senior Expert for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and was formerly the Director-General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. Professor Lynette Abbott is the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science and Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia. Dr Tony Press was the Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of Australia’s Tropical Savannas.
*** Like carbon in soil, wool is an extremely variable commodity. A 21 micron wool may have a spread of fibres from 11 microns to 37 microns, according to the Australian Wool Testing Authority. “Wool is an extremely variable commodity and wool testing is used to provide an estimate of its properties based on a sample taken from the bulk. Because wool is variable, no two samples are the same.” To overcome the problem buyers would have wit uncertainty, the industry used a statistical device called the Coefficient of Variation of Diameter. It is a measure of the variation in micron measurements along and between individual fibres, relative to the average (or mean) fibre diameter.” The precision of an individual test result is usually expressed in Confidence Limits. Normally, the precision of a test result is defined in terms of 95% Confidence Limits, i.e., the limits on either side of the "true" result within which you can expect 95% of any repeat measurements to lie.
**** You might get the impression from some presentations about the CFI that the odds are you would be paying back offsets you earned because fire wiped out your trees. The facts are these: Between 2001 and 2005, only 2.5% of Australia’s forests were impacted by wildfire each year. The odds are 37 to 1 of a fire event. The majority of wildfires do not kill the trees. The CFI requires that dead trees be replanted. The odds of that happening are far longer than you’d get on a roughie in the first at Randwick next Saturday, not Black Caviar’s @ $1.10, which is the impression given by some presenters. (For more read Top 15 Questions about the Carbon Farming Initiative.)

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