Friday, December 14, 2007

Carbon Coalition Draft Activity Program 2008

The following projects are planned for implementation in 2008.

ο Carbon Farmers of Australia (Indicator-based soil carbon trading system)

ο Soil-C-Central (web community and resource-sharing site)

ο First World Congress on Soil Carbon & Climate Change (International event)

In each case we are seeking financial and other practical support from government and corporate sources as well as landholders. We also need people who can help with • strategy • construction • fundraising • lobbying • content provision • etc. (


To see the day when farmers are paid to capture and store soil carbon at rates sufficient to change land management practices and impact on 85%+ of agricultural land in Australia and the World.


Soil carbon trading is a new paradigm. It challenges the dominant paradigm which holds that soil carbon is generically unsuitable for trade as a commodity because of its uncertainties in the face of the accounting regimes associated with the markets. It is further disqualified in the dominant school of thought by the depleted nature of Australia's soils. The battle between paradigms is political and cultural, as empires, careers, and spheres of influence are fortified by ruling paradigms. Science is not a clear-cut, objective matter. Adherents to competing paradigms see the world differently, talk past each other, define science differently. “Paradigm change cannot be justified by proof,” says Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. “The man who embraces a new paradigm at an early stage must often do so in defiance of the evidence… At the start a new candidate for paradigm may have few supporters, and on occasions the supporters' motives may be suspect… [If] the paradigm is one destined to win its fight, the number and strength of the persuasive arguments in its favour will increase.”

“The proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds… see different things when they look from the same point in the same direction… That is why a law that cannot even be demonstrated to one group of scientists may occasionally seem intuitively obvious to another… Before they can communicate fully, one group or the other must experience the conversion that we call a paradigm shift.”

Kuhn says paradigms cannot rise to dominance or survive challenges without the protection of a community that rely upon it. “A paradigm is what the members of a scientific community share, and, conversely, a scientific community consists of men who share a paradigm.” The scientific community selects and trains its inductees in seeing the world through the prism of the paradigm. These communities are self-referring via the peer review system of vetting research. And Kuhn says these communities, while rallying around a paradigm, are more closely linked by personal values.

The New Paradigm of Soil C needs a community willing to campaign for the testing* of the theory on a level playing field, under ideal conditions, by scientists who believe it can be demonstrated that Australian soils can sequester significant amounts of soil C.

*It has yet to be thoroughly investigated.
**To counter the influence of the observer on the outcome (as demonstrated by Danish physicist Niels Bohr.)

Carbon Farmers of Australia
The first soil C trading entity


Carbon Farmers of Australia (CFA) is the trading arm of the Carbon Coalition. It sells Australian Soil Credits on the Voluntary Offset Market.

It was founded to get trading started while the issue of direct measurement and monitoring of exact amounts of carbon captured and stored is being resolved. It uses proxies or visual indicators of soil carbon increases based on land management change and paddock history, as used by the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).


The reason CFA was established was to prove that trading was possible and to loosen a gridlocked political environment by building a sense of impetus towards a solution. Its establishment sent an echo around the stakeholder communities. It was the first soil trading program to operate in Australia, the others being direct measurement systems which are either still in development or in trials.

The system is also a low risk/low value model which can act as a means of acclimatising the farmers to the responsibilities inherent in a trading system prior to them entering the more rigorous “direct measurement/full value” model.


CFA is a service for growers seeking to gain a commercial return for their soil husbandry and land management. Services include sales, marketing, aggregation of pools, advice, auditing management, and revenue maximisation.

CFA is offering soil credits for purchase on the voluntary carbon offset market. These credits are not eligible as offsets for achieving mandatory caps.

It also aims to address the CCX voluntary commodity market when the peer-reviewed data can be supplied to the CCX (pending) and Australian mandatory commodity markets when the agreed methodology for measurement is achieved (less imminent.)


The land management performance can be audited by either the Central West Catchment Management Authority for properties within its Catchment or by NASAA, the verification service that is used by organic producers as a third party standards monitor . (The CWCMA is committed to recruiting other CMAs to act as auditors. But in order to guarantee that we can extend the service beyond the Catchment regardless of the outcome of these efforts, we have entered into discussions with NASAA.)

Visual audit 5 land management practices:

1.No tillage cropping instead of ploughing. Sowing crops into stubble or dormant pasture avoids baring the soil and releasing CO2. Maintaining groundcover is essential to increasing soil carbon.

2. No burning of stubble or grasses. Burning releases CO2 and bares soil to erosion and loss of moisture, both of which deplete soil carbon.

3.Maximum continuous groundcover. Prevents erosion and emission of CO2, maintains soil structure, retains moisture, prevents over-heating.

4.Perenniality of pasture species. Deep rooted perennials are the most effective in generating carbon.

5.Biodiversity instead of monoculture. As soil microbial communities become more diverse and complex, they generate more carbon.

An annual visual audit should confirm the following:

1. increase groundcover and therefore biomass (vegetation and rootmass)
2. increase perenniality & therefore produce more biomass
3. increase biodiversity of plants species & wildlife in & on the soil
4. reduce soil disturbance and compaction


Land is eligible where land management has changed since 1990 (the IPCC's baseline year):

o from till to no till (ploughing to no ploughing)
o from till to pasture
o from set stocking to grazing management

The sequestration value of CFA Soil Credits is set at a very conservative rate of 2 tonne CO2 per hectare (c. 0.5tC/Ha) per year (with adjustments for climate region, ie., Tablelands, Slopes, Plains) There is a mechanism for calculating the impact of climatic regions on soil carbon accumulation, based on what is known about the behaviour of carbon in these regions.


ο Average 2.5% Organic Carbon in top 10 cm soil profile.
ο Benchmarked annual change 0.75 tonnes Carbon/ha/yr
ο 150% base price/hectare/year


ο Average 1.7% Organic Carbon in top 10 cm soil profile. Benchmarked annual change 0.50 tonnes Carbon/ha/yr
ο 100% base price hectare/year


ο Average 0.8% Organic Carbon in top 10 cm soil profile.
ο Benchmarked annual change 0.25 tonnes Carbon/ha/yr
ο 50% base price hectare/year


The categories are based on estimates published by the Australian Greenhouse Office:

ο "The review clearly indicated that the introduction of a cropping phase into uncleared land or a well-established pasture with high plant biomass, reduced soil carbon density by 10 to 30 t/ha in soils to 30 cm depth... Likely changes in soil carbon densities associated with changes in soil tillage practices are of the order of 5 to 10 t/ha when they occur..." (National Carbon Accounting System, Technical Report No. 43, January 2005)

ο Our estimates are also informed by K.Y. Chan's work on soil carbon levels under different land management methods in NSW which revealed that soil carbon levels were 2 to 2.7 times higher in pasture soil than in cropped soils, and significantly higher in minimum till than in conventional tillage soils. (Chan, K.Y. “Soil particulate organic carbon under different land use and management,” Soil Use and Management (2001) 17, 217-221.)

ο “Rebuilding soil carbon levels is a slow process which imposes limits on what can be achieved by 2010. Even so, it is suggested that a sequestration rate in the of about 2 Mt C pa is within the realms of possibility and that the sequestration by agricultural soils can make a significant contribution to the achievement of greenhouse gas emissions targets.” (Roger Swift and Jan Skjemstad, CSIRO Land and Water for the CSIRO Biosphere Working Group, “Agricultural Soils as Potential Sinks for Carbon”)


1. A 5 year management agreement will be entered into between CFA and the Carbon Farmer.
2. Insurance covered by system of make good provisions in event of loss of carbon by fire or mismanagement.
3. If farmers can show that they are storing more carbon then they are encouraged to seek other traders to sell excess carbon stored.
4. Minor penalty repayment to withdraw from program


We launched the system at the Carbon Farming Conference in November, 2007 and are currently enlisting Carbon Farmers and expect to 'go public' in February, 2008.

Outcomes & Metrics

We aim to have 50 registered growers by June, 2008 and 250 by December, 2008

The primary objective has already been achieved. Ie., the first sales made through the system during the market testing phase led to the first meetings with soil scientists which in turn evolved into the Carbon Farming Expo & Conference which was the high point in public acceptance of carbon farming by the scientific community.

The secondary objective - preparing a group of Carbon Farmers for the discipline of the trading environment - will be measured by how many of them transition to include “direct measurement/full value” when such a system is available.


The world's largest soil C web community and resource


Soil-C-Central is a web-based, single-issue resource and community centre that is dedicated to promoting the value and power of soil carbon.


Objective 1: To build a community of scientists, farmers, extension officers, corporate executives, students, policymakers, media, etc. Network them around a core common interest: soil carbon. Arm members of the soil C community with facts and the self-belief to help them spread the word.

Objective 2: To build public awareness of the benefits of soil carbon trading:

ο CO2 sequestration
ο Farm family economies
ο Restoration of farm landscapes

Objective 3: To create a sense of inevitability and anticipation around soil carbon as a Climate Change solution to generate the political will to remove barriers to the trade.


A soil C “webtropolis”: an online city with districts, neighbourhoods, community facilities and services: an online library, resource centre, news service and meeting place for everyone interested in soil carbon.

Planned to meet the needs of individuals with diverse reasons for being involved.


Location - A place to hang out for those engaged in the new soil C paradigm.

Education - Basic information for the seeker, reporter, educator, generalist. Specialist infomation for the maven and the power user. Scalable pathways to pursue information into the vaults or wherever it leads.

Knowledge - The power of fresh information. A new paradigm must win the argument in the open arena of peer-reviewed science.

Identity - Validation of the heretical beliefs of the adherent to a new paradigm. Provides members with sense of identity and affirmation of their beliefs

Community - Networks members so they can learn from each other. Empowers members to provide leadership in their own communities.

Trade - A place where business can be transacted, contacts made, and services purchased.

Invention - Geeks fostering the next generation of ideas or finding new ways of putting the old ones to the sword.

Innovation - Promotes Carbon Farming as a new way of agriculture.

Climate Change - Provides Leadership Role for Agriculture in Climate Change issue.

Villages will spring up among special interest groups who will start Online Groups and personal Blogs to form a niche meeting place for their sub-group, like clubs at university.


This project will be built in stages, to accommodate the flow of income:

Stage 1: Build a “Display Village”*

Home Page (“Central Station”)
Resource Area (“Library”) - Based on existing functions
Newsletter (“News Media”) - Based on existing functions

Stage 2: Complete construction

Use “Display Village” to solicit support for completion of construction from sponsors (NAB, Landmark, Country Energy, etc.)

Stage 3: Living Community

Financed by:

Membership fees

There are three categories of cost:

1. Website construction & maintenance
Build basic site
Renovations and extensions as required

2. Content development and production (ongoing)
Locating content, compiling archive, scientific papers, etc.
Producing news bulletins
Posting slide shows, podcasts, etc.

3. Administration
Manage discussion groups
Help Desk
Handle user problems

Outcomes & Metrics

The standard metrics for websites include hits, page impressions, time spent, unique visitors, return visits, registrations, sales, memberships, comments left, contribution to strings, city of origin, etc.

We will also be able to track usage of resources, ie. which information is most useful.

Online petitions, surveys and plebiscites can also be used to gather data.

We will judge success on raw visits, memberships, attendance at webcasts, and usage of resources.

We will also judge success by how many suburbs are established.

Ultimately the power of the community will be measured by how quickly we achieve our Mission.


World Congress on Soil Carbon & Climate Change


A gathering of the world's top scientists, farmers and soil C enthusiasts to network their knowledge and pool resources.


Harness the best minds to solve the problem everyone is working on separately: measurement and monitoring.


Digital Age gathering
World's best soil carbon scientists and carbon farmers
USA, Australia, NZ, India, China, Sth Africa, Brazil, Argentina
Web and satellite links
A month of events
Special areas: eg. measurement, cropping, etc
Culminating in a big gathering in Australia or China or USA for face2face


October 2008 - International Year of Planet Earth

Outcomes & Metrics

Energise the global soil C community.
Put soil carbon on the world map
Get serious consideration of the Soil C Solution

Two Enquiries, Three New Ministers

The Coalition needs input for the following:

We are putting together submissions two enquiries and meetings with three new ministers:

1. NSW Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Natural Resource Management (Climate Change) was established to inquire into issues of sustainable natural resource management:

(a) The likely consequences of human-induced climate change on land (including salinity), water and other natural resources; 

"(b) Options for ensuring ecologically sustainable natural resource use, taking into particular account the impacts of climate change;

(c) Approaches to land and water use management practices on farms and other natural resource management practices, having regard in particular to the role of such practices in contributing to climate change or as a tool in helping to tackle climate change;

"(d) The effectiveness of management systems for ensuring that sustainability measures for the management of natural resources in New South Wales are achieved, having particular regard to climate change; and

"(e) The likely consequences of national and international policies on climate change on natural resource management in New South Wales."

(For info:

Submissions by 15 December, 2007. (Right - this is a last minute effort.)

2. The Garnaut Climate Change Review will examine the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy, and recommend medium to long-term policies and policy frameworks to improve prospects for sustainable prosperity.
Part of the Review includes ways in which" land management, agriculture and forestry interact with climate change in Australia, and how that interaction might be affected by policy choices in Australia... The Review recognises the importance of agriculture and forestry in the Australian context of climate change, and the need for appropriate incentives for agriculture and forestry in participating in the mitigation effort."

Submissions due 4 January, 2007.

We are also gearing up for meetings with three new federal ministers: Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Penny Wong, Climate Change, and Peter Garrett, Environment.

So far the indicators are good. Tony Burke was on The Country Hour enthusing about what he was seeing around Tamworth when he visited the Namoi CMA. (He was commenting on the way groundcover was preventing erosion.) A self-confessed agriculture newbie, Mr Burke has impressed everyone with his voracious appetite for knowledge and his openness. He suits us because he hasn't got the baggage McGauran, Turnbull and Campbell had (their connections with the high-input farming lobby). He isn't infected with the official line about Australian soils. Yet.

Penny Wong is a dynamite choice for Climate Change. She is forensic in her analysis of situations and is not likely to be snowed by the spin doctors in the public service. Her first instruction as Minister was to prepare a greenhouse gas costing for all Labor's promises from the Election. As the soil carbon issue requires a mind that can see through the myths and misunderstandings to get to the hard numbers underneath, the Coalition is confident that it will find an open ear when we get to see her.

Peter Garrett is not 'demoted'. He is the apparent victim of the promotion of Climate Change to a separate ministry - which is a good news story - recognising that Climate Change is an economic portfolio as much as it is an environmental one. Peter is 'a friend at court' for the Carbon Coalition. And we present the acceptable face of agriculture to the ALP and moderate Greens. Peter's portfolio will impact on agriculture. We can offer the Government a bridge to the future.

All these presentations need input, if you have any lying around. What input? Data. Evidence. Statements by significant people. Anything that can be used to promote our cause. And what do we want from Government? Clear out the naysayers from the administration. Commit to giving soil C it's best shot at proving what it can do under ideal conditions.

Preparing submissions and planning for our THREE BIG PROJECTS FOR 2008 (see next post) is how we will be spending Christmas. And watching the grass grow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jock comes to Gugong to meet his sceptical flock

Jock Laurie, hard-talking hard-travelling President of NSW Farmers came to Gulgong and the Coalition cornered him to update him. Jock told the audience of 40 that the new Commonwealth Government presents farmers with a great opportunity to build better relations with the ALP. He described the new Minister For Agriculture Tony Burke in positive terms: "He has a good work ethic. He wants to succeed in this portfolio. He admits he has no background in agriculture, but he is obviously keen to listen and learn." Mr Laurie said the big issues facing farmers in the State remain the effects of drought, the election of a new Government, the public image of farming and Climate Change. He said the Association is pushing for a seat at the table. "We don't want to be left out of the discussions and told afterwards what we have to do," he said. "Agriculture has an opportunity to not only play a part in the issue, but farmers could find themselves leading the way to make a major impact on the problem at a global level."

Michael Kiely, NSWFarmers' member and Convenor of the Carbon Coalition, endorsed Jock Laurie's strong stand on Climate Change. "Jock was one of the first industry leaders to grasp the meaning of carbon sequestration for farmers and see the opportunity for them. He listened to us when a lot of people scratched their heads. Now he is on the front foot and is leading the charge, even though many of his members are climate sceptics.

"His view, and ours, is that you don't have to believe that Global Warming is man-made, but the majority of people and all the governments of the world do. You have the right to your opinion, but democracy isn't about acting on everyone's opinion. The majority rules. If 2500 climate scientists are wrong, then the world will have wasted a lot of money and time. But if the sceptics are wrong and we follow their advice and do nothing, we'll lose a lot more than money and time."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SLIDES from Carbon Farming Expo & Conference now available

You will find LINKS alongside this item, to most of the papers presented at the Carbon Farming Expo & Conference in Mudgee, 16th-17th November, 2006. There are just a couple more to join them.

Coming up will be the audio for each presentation and a DVD. These will be available (God willing) in the new year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Cards & T-Shirts: Support the Work of the Carbon Coalition

More good news: Soils In New Voluntary Carbon Standard

The day soils will be officially recognised as a valid source of tradable Carbon is coming closer. On 19 November, 2007 a Guide Book for a Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) for Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use Projects (AFOLU) was released. The final standard will be released in 2008 to assist the trade in carbon in the voluntary market. (The non-mandatory market - where individuals and corporations seek to buy offsets - not because they have to meet a target - simply to do something positive about Climate Change (or be seen to be doing something).

The following four categories of AFOLU project activities will be covered under the VCS:
• Afforestation, Reforestation and Revegetation (ARR)
• Agricultural Land Management (ALM)
• Improved Forest Management (IFM)
• Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (RED)

In the future, new AFOLU project categories will be added (e.g., avoided devegetation) as best-practices become defined...

Despite their clear potential, AFOLU projects can be quite challenging to design, implement and monitor. Fortunately, defined solutions for dealing with permanence, additionality, leakage, measurement, and monitoring have emerged in the last few years. The VCS reflects these latest solutions and provides best-practice guidance.

The VCS is being put together by a coalition of organisations - including the World Business Council For Sustainable Development and the World Economic Forum, which developed the global standards for calculating carbon footprints. Australia's representative on the team of reviewers is Martijn Wilder from law firm Baker & McKenzie. Martijn is a friend of the Carbon Coalition and has given us advice without charge.

Under the heading "Eligible Activities"are (A) improved cropland management; (B) improved grassland management and, (C)
cropland and grassland land-use conversions.

An open letter to soil scientists about Carbon (July 2006)

At the same time we set up the blog, the Carbon Coalition made this appeal to the soil scientists of the world on 10 July, 2006:

Dear Soil Scientist,

Scientists have rarely had the opportunity to change the course of history that you have today. Global warming is now widely considered inevitable. The race is on to find ways to avert the worst case scenario.

While millions of trees are being planted and various solutions are being investigated, including pumping C02 into oceans, empty coal seams and oil wells, none has the capacity to sequester sufficient CO2 in the next 50 years. Only soils can do it. "Results from integrated assessment analyses indicate that soil carbon sequestration may have an important strategic role – due to potential for early deployment and low costs – within a technology portfolio to mitigate climate change," says US climate change economist Professor Bruce A. McCarl of Texas A&M University. "Unlike many other technologies to offset fossil fuel emissions (e.g. geologic carbon sequestration, carbon capture), land management for soil C sequestration can be implemented immediately, provided there are economic and other incentives to do so."

Soils can sequester large amounts of carbon*. "Soil organic carbon is the largest reservoir in interaction with the atmosphere," reports the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation. (Vegetation 650 gigatons, Atmosphere 750 gigatons, Soil 1500 gigatons). Poor management of the world's soils in the past 200 years has seen soil carbon levels severely depleted in many regions. Grazing land alone comprises more than half the total land surface of the world. Any incremental change in carbon levels through improved soil management on such a scale could have a massive impact on atmospheric CO2 stocks.

Soils used for C sequestration would reach their carbon saturation point within that 50-year window of opportunity. But they will have done the job until alternatives come on stream.

There are two more links in the chain between you and saving the world from the worst of Global Warming. Link #1 is the motivation to get conservative farmers to make radical changes to their farm practices. The income derived from selling carbon credits would be sufficient incentive to change for most farmers if prices were in the range currently being achieved under the Kyoto Agreement.

Link #2 is the mechanism which can make such trade possible - the measurement, monitoring and verification of amounts of carbon sequestered in soils. Here the spotlight falls upon you. The world needs a reliable, bankable methodology that will be acceptable to markets. Currently the ruling paradigm states that it can't be done: soil carbon levels are in such flux that they can swing wildly from one side of a field to another, from furrow to furrow, from day to day.

Consider this: Before Columbus, educated Europeans thought the earth was flat. Before Copernicus, educated Europeans thought the Sun revolved around the Earth. These old paradigms were fiercely defended by the establishment. There will come a day when soil carbon measurement will be a problem solved and the world will reap the benefits.

These benefits are not just greenhouse-related. The soil management techniques required for carbon sequestration - constant groundcover, deep-rooted perennials, minimum- or no-tillage cropping, and the like - will have the positive effect of restoring soil structure, rebuilding biomass and microfauna communities, increasing the soil's water-holding capacity, reducing the incidence of salination, and improving soil fertility and productivity. Add to these the protection of topsoil from wind and water erosion and you can see how powerful is your opportunity. The carrot of carbon credits will motivate an entire generation of farmers to learn the benefits of husbanding the soil.

There are profound social benefits, as well. Increased farm incomes would help farm families stay together on the land. Increased farm values would give farm families financial flexibility and confidence in the future. Soil carbon credits would also foster new growth in farm communities, providing employment opportunities and protecting social infrastructure that is crumbling as you read this.

Given the benefits for the environment and society, the search for a methodology should be pursued with the same passion as the search for a cure for cancer. The scientist who discovers the solution will not only enter the history books. You will have made a real contribution to the lives of everyone on the planet, an opportunity few people are given.

Yours in hope for the future,

The Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming**

PS. Shakespeare said it all:

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries."

PPS. *Soil carbon sinks can play a key role in the global strategy to mitigate against greenhouse emissions, says Prof. Bruce A. McCarl. "With focused effort, the amount of carbon sequestered in soil by land management could be significantly increased. Various studies estimate that the soil C sequestration rate may be increased to 0.44-0.88 Pg C y-1 and sustained over a 50-year time frame."

**The Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming is a farmers' and citizens' movement which seeks to have agricultural soils recognised as an effective carbon sink for the purposes of trading on the global greenhouse emissions offset market. Visit for more details and to join.


NB. The scientists have responded magnificently - resulting in the recent Carbon Farming Expo & Conference.

Lal calls on scientists to work towards trading soil C

Professor Lal calls soil scientists to rally to the Carbon Farmers’ cause

It doesn’t sound much like a clarion call, but if you know Dr Rattan Lal’s normally reserved character, he is very animated when he says: “Soil and tillage researchers must be proactive in this important theme.” The key word is ‘proactive’. Its use is tantamount to a plea for scientists to come out of the laboratory and become activists in the soil carbon debate. The “theme” of Dr Lal’s editorial in Soil & Tillage Research is to be found in the title: “Farming carbon”.

Dr Lal has the gloves off when he describes the President’s favourite climate change solution, the burial of captured CO2e in deep underground caverns or deep in the ocean. “In contrast to the high economic and environmental cost of the ‘work in progress’ technologies of oceanic and geologic sequestration, [soil carbon sequestration] is an opportunity that the world cannot afford to ignore,” he says. “C-sequestration in the terrestrial biosphere (eg. forests, agricultural soils) is considered a low-hanging fruit, a win-win strategy and a bridge to the future until low-C or no-C fuel sources take effect.”

Lal sets a benchmark of between 30 and 40 tonnes of carbon per hectare for even very degraded soils: “Soils with severely deplete SOC (soil organic carbon) pool could have lost at much as 30-40Mg C/ha which also constitutes the theoretical or potential sink capacity.”

Here are the highlights of his editorial:

• “The process of [soil carbon sequestration] is appropriately termed ‘farming carbon’ or ‘growing carbon’ when C sequestered in soil can also be traded as any other farm commodity (eg. corn, soybean, milk, meat, poultry).”

• “”The commodification of soil/terrestrial carbon may provide the much needed incentives to promote adoption of recommended management practices restore degraded soils while improving the SOC pool.”

“… the ever-growing need of increasing agronomic production to meet basic needs of 830 million insecure food-insecyure people, mostly in Subsaharan Africa and Southern Asia…. There is also an important issue of stewardship of soil resources,” he says.

• Lal quotes a US Federal Bureau of Soils document which maintained in 1878 “the soil is the one indestructable, immutable asset that the nation possess, and one resource that cannot be exhausted.” This attitude led to the legendary dust storms when the mid-West of the USA lost thousands of tonnes of top soil.

• “Taking soils for granted… led to the Dustbowl of the 1930 in the US and to a wide spread distribution of degraded and desertified soils, civil unrest and political instability, and to collapse of civilisation as we know it.” (Lal cites Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse”.)

• “It is important to enhance collective/community soil/land ethic that incorporates understanding of ecology and sustainable use of soil based on recommended management practices and the traditional knowledge and wisdom. There is a need for paradigm shift on new perspective on soil tillage and the value of soil as a whole.”

• Dr Lal ask the question: “what price in the loss of ecosystem services are we willing to pay for producing modern biofuels from crop residues?” He points to ‘the possible adverse effects of crop residue removal on soil quality, agronomic productivity, and sustainability of soil and water resources. The severe and widespread problem of soil degradation and the attendant agrarian stagnation/deceleration, are caused by indiscriminant removal of crop residues (for competing uses as fodder, fuel, thatchingmaterial) and uncontrolled grazing.”

• “Gain in the soil C pool, with reference to a baseline period, can be traded through World Bank, Chicago Climate Exchange, European Climate Exchange, and natonal and local industry.”

• “The possibility of trading soil C credits offers a new hope to small land holders of Africa and Asia to receive payments for services to society rather than receive handouts.”

• Lal points to the shift in US politics and the enthusiasm for cap and trade in the world community, including California’s own trading system. “Thus, coming events are casting their shadow in this important and emerging field of immense significant to soil science, and the researchers must out their act together before the train departs the station.”

•”There is a strong need for developing a methodology for assessing C credits in soils and terrestrial ecosystems.. The principal challenge to soil scientists lies in: (i) upscaling the point data to landscape, farm, watershed or a region comprising 100,000-200,000 ha, (ii) evaluating changes in the soil C pool (expressed in Mg/ha/year) with reference o a baseline for a cultivated land unit comprising a large farm community, and (iii) verifying that the C thus sequestered in soil is permanent and not re-emitted because of changes in land use or management practices.”

• “There is a strong need to estimate the net C sequestration taking into consideration C costs (hidden C costs) of all input, ie. fertilizers, pestcides, tillage operations irrigation, etc.)”

• “Determining what is soil worth, considering all ecosystem services and looking beyond the short-term economics, I important to the commoditification of soil C.”

• “The strategy of soil carbon sequestration is essential irrespective of the debate on climate change. The depleted SOC pool must be restored, come what may.” Lal reports it is estimated that between 24 and 40million tonnes of additional food grainscan be produced annually if the SOC pool in developing countries can be grown by 1 Mg/ha/year.

Dr Lal has sounded the call to arms.

HERE IN AUSTRALIA WE ARE AHEAD OF THE REST: Our scientists have already - for 12 months - been engaging with farmers to find solutions to these issues. The Carbon Coalition would like to acknowledge Brian Murphy, Jeff Baldock, Andrew Rawson, John Friend, Greg Chapman, Richard Green, Albert Oates, YN Chan, Alec McBratney, and all scientists who have given us encouragement and support.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Climate candidate sends out SOS


Michael Kiely, the Climate Change Coalition candidate for the seat of Parkes in next Saturday’s election, is sending up a flare for help. He has only this week to campaign and needs to recruit polling place helpers.

“I’ve been too busy fighting Climate Change to run a conventional campaign,” says Michael Kiely, organiser of the Carbon Farming Expo & Conference last Friday and Saturday in Mudgee. It attracted close to 400 delegates from every state of Australia and New Zealand. Scientists and ‘carbon farmers’ told the audience that soil can play a dramatic part in the battle to stop rising world temperatures.

“There are 5.5 billion hectares of soil controlled by farmers around the globe. If they were able to sequester an average of one tonne of carbon per hectare, they could soak up the entire annual emissions of the world,” says Mr Kiely.

The Kiely Family have been campaigning for more than 2 years to have farmers rewarded for growing soil carbon. Michael is standing for the Climate Change Coalition to put the issue at the top of the agenda.

“I couldn’t have run the world’s first carbon farming conference to bring the top scientists and farmers together while pushing a political barrow. It would have risked disrupting the conference,” says Mr Kiely.

“As it was, we invited my chief opponent Mark Coulton of the Nationals to address the conference to prove we weren’t a political front. And I did not announce my candidature until the end of the conference. This puts me and the Climate Change Coalition party at a disadvantage. But the conference was a great success.””

The Conference heard of three programs for trading soil carbon credits and two programs for selling “carboncredited” wool and other produce.

The delegates voted unanimously for the Government to provide $10 million for more research in soil carbon and for every farmer to have their soil carbon tests done for free to encourage them to join the ‘carbon farming’ movement and start absorbing more CO2.

The Climate Change Coalition was founded by Patrice Newell who is a candidate for the Senate in NSW.

For more information, call 02 6374 0329

ABC Country Hour Conference Coverage on Podcast


You can hear the New South Wales Country Hour's extensive coverage of the Conference by going to

There you will find a Real AUdio file of the show. (If you haven't got Real Audio, Google it and download it. It's free.)

Friday, November 16, 2007
Country Hour at Mudgee Carbon Farming field day

Report: David Claughton/Michael Condon

The Country Hour broadcast from the world first Carbon Farming Expo and Conference held today.

Around 400 farmers from every state in Australia as well as New Zealand have converged on Mudgee in Central Western New South Wales to meet with scientists to hear about the latest advances in farming with a view to storing carbon. The topics for discussion include what price might be paid by for carbon stored in the soil or in grasses or crops that farmers grow.

Conference Organiser Michael Kiely has appealed for 10 million dollars in federal government money to continue research and prove what many scientists and farmers believe is true about soil carbon. He says the science is now showing that you can store carbon, measure and quantify it and that it helps farm production and the environment, while the multi-national companies responsible for polluting the environment are keen customers of carbon credits, but the Federal Government is not interested.

He also says the market for carbon credits is "exploding" in Chicago. 55-60 polluters are involved in the trade as a way of balancing their carbon producing activities.

Michael Kiely, conference organiser
Storing carbon in the soil

Report: Alison Manning

Senior soil scientist with Dept of Environment and Climate Change Brian Murphy says soil carbon can be measured in the field by taking soil samples and measuring the bulk density and the carbon level in the laboratory. It's time consuming and not always accurate.

Another way is to look at land management practices to estimate soil carbon levels.

Carbon contracts run for about 5 years but storing carbon in the soil can vary with things like drought which reduces the ground cover.

In this report: Brian Murphy, senior soil scientist, Dept of Environment and Climate Change
Carbon Cocky award

Report: Michael Condon

Tonight the Carbon Cocky of the year will be announced. Col Seis, who lives 20 kms north of Gulgong, and Gus Hinkman from Cowra are both finalists.

Judges are looking for farmers using best practice and that includes maintaining a lot of ground cover to build carbon in the soil and farming differently with perennial grasses. Broadly described as conservation farming, the techniques results in better use of water and nutrients and dramatic improvements in the health of the soil. The farmers say they are looking after the landscape with a view to improving the productivity of the land and earning some carbon credits down the track. They believe they are heading in the right direction, with some big carbon levels increasing from 1.8 to 4 per cent.

Other farmers at the event are also committed to conservation farming. Richard Maykem from Gyra is working in a cold, wet intensive farming operation. He has tried to manage his farm holistically and says "I got interested in the Landcare movement first, then heard about rotational grazing systems coming out of Africa".

Richard Langley runs a cropping property with some livestock. He's been continuously cropping for 20 years using a stubble retention program, in line with Conservation farming principles. "We haven't burnt for 20 years...when you start you're on your own. People will shake their heads, but you'll have a gut feeling you're doing the right thing, and later others will make the change."

Soil Scientists

Report: Michael Condon

Some of the progressive farmers are way ahead of scientists, we're here to hear about what they're doing and why it's working. We are working with the landholders to outline five golden rules for building the carbon levels in the soil. They include maintaining ground cover, avoiding compaction of the soil, using perennial plants.

There are a number of incentives for farmers to take up conservation farming which include some developed by the Catchment Management Authority and payments to farmers from carbon trading for taking carbon out of the air.

In this report: John Lawrie and Ian Packer, Catchment Management Authority

Carbon Cockies of the Year

From Left to Right: Robert & Maree Goodear of Merewa won Carbon Cocky for the Hunter, Anne and Ray Williams of Magomadine" Coonamble won Carbon Cocky of the Plains (sponsored by Landmark), Martin Royd of Braidwood won Carbon Cocky East of the Divide, Col Seis of Winona, Gulgong won Carbon Cocky of the Slopes (sponsored by Country Energy) and
Michael Inwood of "Toulon" Bathurst won Carbon Cocky of the Tablelands (Sponsored by Holistic Management Australia). Each case study will be written up and posted on the Carbon Farmer site with other materials (

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Numbers limited to 450 for "Carbon Farming Conference"

"YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER FOR THE 'CARBON FARMING' CONFERENCE," say the organisers. The building has a safety limit of 450 attendees. Already more than 200 have registered and the last week is usually when a rush of registrations come in, according to many experienced event organisers

"We will try to cater for everyone who turns up, but we can't guarantee that latecomers won't be observing proceedings in a marquee on a screen," says Louisa Kiely, who is managing the registrations.

Registrations can be made by calling 02 6374 0329, by EFTPOS, credit card, money order or cheque.

Ex-Head CSIRO Climate Science says "Yes" to soil carbon trading

When the Coalition spoke to Dr Graeme Pearman at a DPI climate change seminar in Orange 6 months ago, he poured cold water on the concept of soil carbon trading, saying the amounts that could be captured and stored were too small and the measurment issues to great to overcome. He was following the "AGO Line".

What a difference 6 months makes. In The Land, (8/11/07), he says he can see the day when 'carbon trading will become so important that methodologies will be obtained so that landholders who can accumulate carbon in their soils will be compensated for it." He urged 'carbon farmers' to engage quickly with the issue or face the same losses the landholders forced to stop clearing native vegetation made because they were not signed up to a trading market.

Dr Pearman is the former head of the CSIRO's Climate Science unit. He is now based at Monash University. ABC 4Corners reports that Dr Pearman was silenced on 6 occasions by CSIRO management when he tried to talk publicly about the need to reduce emmissions an the need for a market in carbon. He was eventually told he had no future with the CSIRO. (Many of our national institutions has been politicised by the Howard Government, according to many independent reports, including the Buerau of Meteorology and the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics. The Bush Administration has also subverted the US Environment Protection Authority and other bodies.

Guests of Honour for Carbon Farming Expo & Conference

Special Guests of the Carbon Farmers of Australia are individuals whose work has championed the positive role primary producers can play in restoring farmland ecologies to health. Agriculture is mankind's greatest interface with nature. Rather than abandon this relationship, these champions place the landholder in the driver's seat for regenerating Australia's natural resource base.CHRISTINE JONES has risked all in the cause of soil carbon. She inspired the formation of the Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming and has in train the most comprehensiive soil carbon trials across Australia, under the banner of the Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme. PETER ANDREWS also sacrificed all for his vision of a restored landscape based on managed hydrology, now known as Natural Sequence Farming. MICHAEL MOBBS, who wrote Sustainable House, is an environmental lawyer who promotes the concept of carbon farming and importance of the relationship between city and country, based on sustainable living.

Latest Program: Carbon Farming Expo & Conference 16th-17th Novermber, 2007

DAY ONE. Friday 16TH November., 2007

8.00am to 9.00am Registration

9.00am to 9.15am Chairman’s Introduction: Climate Change Challenges & Opportunities - Gary Allan, Project Leader, Climate Risk Management, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

9.15am to 9.45am Carbon Farming: The Big Picture From Soil Carbon Capture to On Farm Emissions - Michael Kiely, “Uamby” Goolma, Convenor, Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming

9.45am-10.15am Soil Carbon Trading: Opportunities for Australian Farmers - Mike Walsh, Senior Vice President, Chicago Climate Exchange

10.15am-10.45am Techniques and Costs of Measuring Soil Carbon – Dr Brian Murphy, Senior Soil Scientist, Department of Environment and Climate Change

10.45am-11.15am Monitoring Soil Carbon Statewide (incl. On Farm Soil Watch Kit) – Greg Chapman, Scientist, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

11.15am– 11.45am MORNING TEA.

11.45am-12.15pm Combinations That Move The Carbon Needle: Grazing Management, Pasture Cropping, and Biological Farming - Col Seis, “Winona” Gulgong

12.15am-12.45pm Biological Farming In Action - Cam McKellar, “Inveraray Downs”, Spring Ridge

12.45-1..45pm LUNCH.

1.45pm- 2.15pm Biochar’s Promise - Adriana Downie, Scientist, Best Energies

2.15pm – 2.45pm Growing Soil Carbon by Rehydrating the Landscape - Craig Carter, “Tallawang”, Willow Tree

2.45pm – 3.15pm A Carbon Farmer in Parliament?– Mark Coulton, Candidate for Parkes, National Party of Austrlalia

3.15pm- 4.00pm. AFTERNOON TEA

4.00pm- 4.30pm Day One: Bringing It All Together - Ian Packer, Soils Officer, Lachlan Catchment Management Authority

4.30pm – 5.00pm Question Time. All speakers to be available.

5.00pm – Drinks: Inaugural “CARBON COCKY OF THE YEAR” award presentation. Sponsored by Landmark, Country Energy, and Holistic Management International/Australia


9.00am- 9.15am Introduction to Day 2 - Gary Allan, Project Leader, Climate Risk Management, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

9.15am-10.15am Soil Carbon Calculators – Dr Jeff Baldock, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO

10.15am – 11.00am Soils, Animals, Crops and Emissions – John Friend, Scientist, NSW Department of Primary Industries.

11.00 – 11.30am MORNING TEA.

11.30 –12.15pm Treading Lightly on the Land (On Farm Efficiencies) - David Marsh, “Allendale” Boorowa

12.15 – 12.45pm Emissions Reductions and Trading Opportunities:
CarbonCredited™ Produce. - Louisa Kiely, “Uamby” Goolma, Carbon Farmers of Australia

12.45– 1.45pm LUNCH.

1.45am – 2.15am CMA Visual Audit Protocols For Voluntary Soil Carbon Trading - John Lawrie, Co-ordinator - Slopes, Central West Catchment Management Authority

2.15 – 3.15pm A Guide to Soil Carbon Trading Systems: Carbon Farmers of Australia, RCS CarbonLink, Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme, The Fourth System. (Michael Kiely, Carbon Farmers of Australia; Rod Rush, RCS CarbonLink,)

3.15 – 3.45pm Where Do We Go From Here? – Michael Kiely, Convenor, Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming

3.45 -4.15pm Question Time.

4.15 Close.

*Please note: This program is subject to change at any time.


The Organisers thank all the Speakers for their valuable contribution, all the Delegates who travelled from all States of Australia, the Exhibitors who supported this event, and the Sponsors who made it possible. A special word of appreciation to the many CMAs who supported the Conference. And to the small band of committed individuals who are always there when there’s work to be done: Thank you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Farm Institute moving on soil carbon?

The Farm Institute - a soil carbon sceptic which has promoted the views of hardline antisoilC AGO scientist John Carter - might just be melting in the heat of the emerging soil carbon legitimacy.

In its most recent "Insights', the Institute questions the methane rationale of the AGO (fewer beasts is good).

"The view that by reducing ruminant livestock production, global greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, ignores ... the realities of the carbon cycle.

"Most greenhouse gas removals from the atmosphere by agriculture are not counted." Does the Institute mean, by 'realities of the carbon cycle" and "gas removals from the atmosphere by agriculture" that SOILS might be involved?

The Institute then goes on to ruminate that fewer animales being eaten and more grain, means more cropping than grazing and quesitons whether this would means more or less emissions. Well, we can tell you: it means more emissions. Pasture (perennial) well managed can sequester large amounts of carbon whereas most cropping regimes emit greenhouse gases.

“Slash herd and flock numbers” says AGO

Dynamite Greenhouse Report Delayed For Election?

“Slash herd and flock numbers” says AGO

“What?” says The National Party.

The Australian Greenhouse Office is delaying the release of a report that recommends Australian graziers slash flock and herd numbers to reduce methane emissions.

“While we haven’t seen the document – which was due out a month ago and is apparently ‘delayed at the printer’ (wink) – we know the position of the scientists leading the methane team,” says Climate Change Coalition candidate for Parkes, Michael Kiely. “The document will say, first and foremost, we must run fewer animals.” (See Dr Richard Eckard reference below)

“Let’s hear what the National Party has got to say about that.”

“I’d like to know if the economics of these recommendations been analysed.” (See reference below)

“Will the Greenhouse Police come onto your place to count the numbers in your herd? Or will they use satellite photography to spy on your operation?” says Mr Kiely. “Probably both.”

The IPCC (the International Panel on Climate Change) has made matters worse by recalculating agriculture’s contribution to global warming to include its ‘transport footprint’. This is a departure from the Kyoto Protocol principles and will enabling extremists to claim that Australia agriculture emits more GHG than the stationery energy industry.

“This policy is insane. Taking animals off could lead to a decline of native grasslands. It would certainly increase soil degradation and desertification,” says Mr Kiely. “The only way to meet the Methane threat and retain stock numbers lies in SOIL CARBON volumes. This can offset the new high levels of CH4 and retain animal impact.”

Many techniques for capturing and storing soil carbon will be on show at the world’s first Carbon Farming Expo & Conference will be held in Mudgee on 16th-17th November, 2007 – a week before the election.

Scientists have found that native perennial pastures, properly managed, can sequester as much carbon per hectare as plantation forests and native vegetation.

Australia’s sustainable farmers are getting the most rapid C increases using combinations of grazing management, pasture cropping and biological farming. “But the dominant paradigm - that Australian soils are too old and depleted to retain soil C (though no credible data supports this conclusion) -- remains the official position,” says Mr Kiely.

And the madness piles on madness: reducing herds will cause LESS carbon to be stored in the soil!

“The Climate Change Coalition seeks to rally the grazing management community to challenge the "stock is bad, de-stock is good” argument. We recommend Council of Crisis involving HM, RCS, the CMAs and prominent practitioners to educate the AGO in the immense potential of agricultural sequestration. Good grazing management should be central to its BEST PRACTICE regime.

“I am standing in the seat of Parkes for the Climate Change Coalition to alert the electorate to the threats to regenerative agriculture and the soil carbon opportunity to radically transform rural landscapes.”



GIA Summary May 2006 1

Reducing uncertainty and best management practices for minimising
greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

A summary of the research currently being conducted by the Greenhouse in Agriculture
program, under the CRC for Greenhouse Accounting.

(Adapted from a paper by Dr Richard Eckard, Program Manager Greenhouse in Agriculture.
CRC for Greenhouse Accounting, The University of Melbourne and Victorian Dept Primary
Industries. Presented at ABARE National OUTLOOK Conference 2006.)

Animal numbers

"An obvious management practice would be to run fewer animals, but to manage each animal to be more productive. By improving genetic and nutritional management, production can be maintained from a smaller herd. Associated with producing more per head on pasture -based systems is an increase in the emission/head, but this is more than compensated for by less animals. ….

"• Animal stocking rate - The higher the stocking rate the higher the volume of nitrogen deposited in dung and urine per unit area. Dung and especially urine are very inefficiently recycled in the soil plant system, with up to 60% of the nitrogen in a
urine patch being lost to the environment. Higher stocking rate systems demand a higher nitrogen input regime (either fertiliser or imported feed) and thus result in ahigher nitrogen content excreted in urine. A urine patch from dairy cow commonly contains between 800 and 1400 kg N/ha effective application rate with the patch. A higher stocking rate also leads to greater pugging (hoof compaction) of the soil; pugged soils tend to be more anaerobic due to hoof compaction leading to higher nitrous oxide losses...

"These options will all need to be economically assessed prior to being communicated to the agricultural community to ensure a positive driver for adoption. The adoption of greenhouse specific management practice is not likely to be a high priority for the farming community, and there are currently no policy drivers or market incentives for adoption of these practices. Researchers and policy makers would therefore be unwise to publish greenhouse -specific best management practice manuals, but should rather aim to seamlessly integrate greenhouse best practice into existing industry adoption pathways and mechanisms. This also ensures that these greenhouse best management practices are consistent with other industry best management practices, thus improving the adoption and the opportunity for a win-win outcome; this is the approach taken by the Greenhouse in Agriculture program team."

FREE Carbon Baseline for every property!

Australia’s Farmers want all political parties contesting the 2007 Federal Election to declare their hand on the trade in soil carbon credits.

The Carbon Farmers of Australia* – a farmers’ group dedicated to the right to trade soil credits – has thrown down the challenge to the major parties to tell the farm community where they stand.

“The CSIRO said recently that there is now no scientific or technical barrier to trading in soil carbon,” says Carbon Farmers’ Michael Kiely. Dr Jeff Baldock, Senior Soil Scientist from CSIRO and the Australian Greenhouse Office, told ABC Rural Radio listeners the only barrier was the current price of carbon and that in the foreseeable future primary producers could be making more from carbon farming than their traditional produce.

The Coalition has 4 fundamental demands:

1. Proper funding of scientific research to enable the emergence of a soil carbon trading scheme.

2. Remove all bureaucratic barriers to the trade in soil carbon credits.

3. Fund the soil carbon baseline measurement for every broadacre landholding in Australia so that every farmer knows their carbon score.

4. Make access to Federal Government funding programs and taxation concessions dependent on the direction of the soil carbon level of the individual land holding.

The world’s first Carbon Farming Expo & Conference will be held in Mudgee NSW on 16th-17th November, 2007. Leading government scientists and innovative ‘carbon farmers’ will reveal the range of methods and technologies for Carbon Farming that have been developed here in Australia.


Michael Kiely 02 6374 0329

*Carbon Farmers of Australia (CFA) is a non-profit company serving the interests of landholders wishing to trade the carbon they have grown in their soils. CFA is the trading arm of the Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming, the advocacy group formed in early 2006.

All farmers are sceptics. 100%.

It’s been a good week for the image of our industry. First we have Nationals Leader Mark Vaile saying the science of global warming is not yet decided. Next we have NSW Farmers Association (NFA) executive councillors Howard Crozier and Ian McClintock being applauded by 60 fellow NFA councillors at their bi-annual meeting in Sydney today for declaring that they have better advice on Climate Change than the United Nations and the IPCC. And that advice is this: man-made emissions are 100% not responsible for global warming. It’s a natural process.

And they announced that most farmers agree with them.

AAP says they rely on what they say is an emerging and eminent alternative school of climate change research which says global warming is almost entirely a natural occurrence.

Mr Crozier, a broadacre farmer near Canberra, declared that: "There is no possible link between this drought and man-made climate change.” Crop and sheep farmer Mr McClintock, from the Cootamundra area, says: "Farmers by and large are far more sceptical about the claims being made that climate change is almost 100 per cent man-induced, simply because we work the land and we know what goes on.”

“Otherwise, the broad spectrum of the scientific evidence is indicating that almost certainly the major component of the climate change we are experiencing is natural climate change."

There is a gap between city and country. Do all farmers believe this new theory? DO you?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Soil carbon calculators emerging

The scientific community is working hard to make the soil carbon opportunity real. Soil carbon calculators put knowledge intothe hands of the land manager. We will cover as many as we find.

C-Calc is a calculator that compares the amount of carbon added to the soil from management practices. It calculates carbon input based on paddock yields. The benefits of different rotations over a decade or longer can be revealed so that practices that improve soil structure are selected.

DPI principal research scientist Peter Fisher, who headed the project, says the project was driven by landholder concern over soil degradation. UC-Calc lets growers select paddocks vulnerable to soil problems and choose rotations to build up soil carbon.

"Growers can start to understand how much carbon they're applying, what difference that will make in the long term and how they can change it," he says in Ground Cover. The amount of carbon being added to the soil, as this is the key controllable factor.

Dr Fisher says soil with a carbon level below 2% will degrade. "A level of two per cent or above prevents soil degradation on most soils, and if you're above that threshold you get other benefits, such as increased nutrients, soil resilience and water-holding capacity - the value of soil carbon can explain about 60 per cent of the variation in soil structure."

Dr Fisher found most high-organic-matter paddocks outperformed their paired site over a number of seasons across 14 irrigated wheat, canola, rice and maize paired sites in northern Victoria and southern NSW.

The researchers found that increasing organic matter by 2t/Ha/year for 10 years, organic carbon levels will be 0.4% higher than if the extra organic matter had not been added.

Dr Fisher says perennial pasture maintained the highest carbon levels. Maintaining stubbles, increasing pasture in rotations, growing higher-yielding crops or plants with larger, more active root systems boost organic matter and carbon levels.

The project was funded by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the GRDC.

More information: Peter Fisher, 03 5833 5341,

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Phil Koperberg's $750,000 won't go far

When the Coalition briefed NSW Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, we were confident that he 'got it'. We asked for $3million for substantial research into methods to establish the trade in soil carbon. Reward the farmers for growing soil carbon and the open warfare between the Minister and farmers in the western division would resolve itself. Instead he is reduced to police raids on farms.

To our request for $3million, he wrote to tell us that the NSW Government was spending $750,000 with the DPI and a bunch of other agencies (sound familiar?) who are looking into land management and soil sequestration. Due to report in 2009. And his Government will continue to work with the Commonwealth Government to develop a comprehensive carbon trading market. This will start in 2012.

This leaves us 4 years of Stern's 10 in which we can put soils to work to absorb the legacy load of CO2 that is not absorbable in any other way. That is, of course, unless the science isn't favourable. In that case, we really are in trouble.

Soil carbon gets a sniff, but only a sniff

“Soil carbon” got a few spots in the latest splash of spending by the Federal Government. The projects include:

• $300,000 to ABARE “to examine the economic opportunities for agriculture and forestry associated with the emerging carbon offsets market in Australia… [including] issues in soil carbon management in forestry and agriculture.”

• $200,000 to the National Farmers’ Federation to “develop background briefing on soil carbon and engage with stakeholders to clearly identify their information issues and opportunities to build understanding of soil carbon sequestration”

• $85,000 to the Bureau of Rural Science to “develop a briefing to inform decision makers on soil carbon, its function and role in carbon cycling and the potential for its inclusion in emissions trading schemes for agriculture and forestry”

Nineteen projects aimed at helping farmers to better manage the effects of climate change will receive $5 million under the Australian Government’s National Agriculture & Climate Change Action Plan.

It is a pittance, given the size of the crisis. The Federal Government's disconnected, piecemeal approach - a series of token efforts - reveals that it is interested in political theatre more than practical outcomes. The Ministers (McGauran and Turnbull) are both clearly hostile to long term solutions such as soil carbon. Despite several approaches, neither have granted us a hearing.

The alternative government will not have the resources to continue this scattergun approach, because the cupboard will be bare after the bribe vs bribe election campaign.

The Carbon Coalition calls upon the new Government - whichever - to rationalise and consolidate scientific research to ensure that the key projects are funded sufficiently well to ensure the findings are sound. (The gaps in the AGO's soil data sets were due to lack of commitment to properly funding the exercise.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Soil Carbon Market coming, says CSIRO

Australian farmers can grow carbon levels in their soils, and advances in science are making a market in credits more likely, says senior CSIRO soil scientist Jeff Baldock.

Dr Baldock, who will be presenting a soil carbon calculator at the world’s first “Carbon Farming” Expo & Conference in November at Mudgee, says a fully-functioning market in soil carbon could make it ‘more economic to farm for carbon than to farm for yield.’

Speaking on ABC Rural Radio, said the CSIRO is discovering more about the dynamics of carbon in the soil, seeking ways to predict the influence of agricultural practices on soil carbon levels. The only barrier to a healthy market at present is the price of carbon, he said.

“I could go most places in the country and institute some sort of agricultural practice that will build soil carbon,” he said. But at current low prices he says it is difficult to justify building carbon for carbon’s sake.

Dr Baldock believes that there are many other reasons to build soil carbon. “Carbon fulfils a whole bunch of roles in soils: it holds nutrients, it helps water-holding capacity, it buffers pH change, it provides energy for soil microbes. It has a lot of spin-offs for enhancing the productivity of soil.”

Leading scientists and innovative farmers will discuss a wide range of carbon farming techniques at the Carbon Farming Expo & Conference on 16th-17th November, 2007 in Mudgee. The world’s most eminent soil carbon scientist, Dr Rattan Lal (President of the American Soil Science Society) described the conference as ‘an historic event of international importance”.

The Conference is being organised by the Central West Catchment Management Authority, the Australian Soil Science Society, and the Carbon Coalition. It is being supported by the Department of Primary Industries, STIPA, and the Central West Conservation Farmers’ Association.

For more information visit or call 02 6374 0329

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The world's first carbon farming expo and conference has its own site on the net:

This site will be updated throughout the lead up to the event itself as well as during and afterwards.

Three cheers for Carbon Farming Conference Sponsors

The following deserve your support - because they are supporting you and the cause of carbon farming. They are the SPONSORS of the Carbon Farming Expo & Conference 16th-17th November, 2007 at AREC, Mudgee.

This event is presented by the Central West Catchment Management Authority, the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, the Department of Primary Industries, the Australian Soil Science Society, Carbon Farmers of Australia (Carbon Coalition), AREC, the Central West Conservation Farmers’ Association, and STIPA.

Sponsors who have committed so far are Lowe Family Wines, YLAD, The Merino Company, and Landmark.

But where's the water coming from?

Coalition member, farmer and engineer Rod Zemanec makes a case for a strong link between soil carbon credits and access to water. (His comments about CarbonLink apply to any soil carbon credit scheme.)


I have read the recent articles relating to Q&A on the Rush – Carbon Link trading scheme. I searched these documents for the mention of “WATER” – NOT ONE COMMENT! To fix carbon in soil or any other bio-sink you need water! Continuously for the life of the fix that is 70 years or more!

There are three key players in the carbon solution
1.The sun to provide the energy – fortunately still free issue from space
2. The land – sufficient area and depth and composition to form the substrate for the biological systems which become the carbon sink – farmers and landholders currently have this in stock and are ready to play
3. Water to enable the biota to survive capture the carbon through photosynthesis and maintain the carbon in a biological form in soil.

These three are critical for carbon capture. The Rush Carbon Link scheme is only a facilitator and not a fundamental element of the solution. It is desirable as an agent to sell the deals collect the cash and regulate payments and rewards it is not a critical component. The scheme will attempt to offset its risk by selling or insuring the risk like a sub prime deal neither broker or farmer could guarantee the results.

The water is a critical element and must be delivered reliably to the largest area as possible to enable these areas to act as carbon collectors and hence sinks. The water infrastructure must be addressed and is properly in the realm of the Government who has the money and the ability to collect cash through taxes, setup incentives and regulate the ongoing business.

A dry desert cannot hold biological carbon it simply seeps away through oxidation by any termite, bug, UV or anything that passes by even the seed bank eventually is consumed. A dry desert can be moistened progressively in blocks and encouraged to store carbon and keep it in store provided the process is maintained – sun, land and MOISTURE. I cannot understand how any rational carbon capture using biological methods can succeed without addressing the third critical element – WATER in continuing supply.

At present we cannot rely on rainfall patterns unless we reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and this required water management and distribution NOW! This problem requires new national solutions by government with the capital to collect, manage, distribute and regulate the water. Just imagine the value of a block whose water was government guaranteed for 100 years at a constant rate provided it was used to collect carbon as well as for agricultural purposes. Agricultural productivity would increase water loss through evaporation would reduce.
We simply need the infrastructure to collect distribute and regulate the water a new efficient model which supercedes the current water allocation and overcomes the waste, evaporation etc.
The infrastructure expenditure by government in water systems would be paid for in world wide carbon credits and the spin off benefits in sustainable agriculture would earn continuing export credits from food and fiber and ensure a distribution of population and wealth across the country

Rod Zemanek

(Rod Zemanek, the Managing Director of Sydney and China–based Predict International, is an international specialists in the field of hygienic handling of liquids to ensure they are fit for human consumption. In recent times he has made his name designing and constructing breweries in both Australia and China.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We welcome new soil trading systems

Biodiversity makes for resilience and choice makes for healthy markets. The members of the Carbon Coalition that have contacted the Convenors since the recent launch of Carbon Link have had many questions, but are united on one position: that they welcome new trading systems and encourage anyone willing to have a go.

Every initiative stirs up the market, puts the issue on the front page, and puts pressure on the 'carbon trading sceptics' to justify their opposition with facts.

The Kyoto principle of "Transparency" requires that all parties be able to see the structure of the abatement and the offsets involved. All new trading systems should be subject to the same scrutiny, if only because bad publicity arising from a poorly-structured program.

For this reason, the Carbon Farmers of Australia system will be explained on this site soon.

Carbon Link answers the questions

Rod Rush again explains the Carbon Link system through a response to the questions submitted to the Coalition by a member.:


Our answers to your most recent questions are below.

I trust that you will publish any other questions and answers as they arise that you might receive on other trading systems.

Q: “There is usually a financial play lurking in the shadows.”

Of course there is. CarbonLink intends to build a profitable business.

Q: “What large emitter pays retail for big volumes? Rio did the Qld trees deal at well under $5 per tonne. Projections based on $25 (and in fact $40 is used in year 10 for the sale of the back-up 25% with no reason given for the jump in price ) when the current market is sub-$5 are "generous" - redo the numbers on $10 per tonne and ??

While nothing is certain in life Carbon Link is comfortable with the price projections in its business model. Several experts at a recent industry conference also expressed similar views on future prices.

Q: “Also using "constant values" is pretty unprofessional as it artificially boosts perceived benefits ($5 in 50 years time is not the same as $5 today)”

We agree that receiving $5 today is not the same as receiving it in 50 years time. Most farmers these days, especially those who have completed the RCS and Holistic Management courses are well aware of the time value of money. For the sake of simplicity and to allow farmers to track the calculations constant values were used.

Q: “At a sub-$10 price do CarbonLink still do their verification for 20% - i.e. $2.”


Q: “Methinks the impact on values for land may be real - maybe not in the desired direction however. All the real money flows out to the owner of the land in years 1 thru 10. But for Years 11 thru 70 using the example the annual income to the landowner is $4,599 on 1000 hectares - just $4.60 per hectare - what restrictions/obligations are placed on the owner during this period - and do these restrictions/obligations act to limit his/her options to a value perceived to be much more than $4.60 per hectare. (I have not even discounted the $4.60 for inflation - do any sort of DCF and the income for years 25 on is negligible in todays terms - $4.60 in 25 years time using a 5% inflation rate is just $1.28, in 50 years just 35 cents). If you were buying a property in 10 years that had "done its dash" with soil carbon, and you were lumbered with a meagre annual return for some hefty obligations (any penalties??) what way would you want to see the price adjusted? Carbonlink website has the following note - Contracts with the land holder will have a “put-and-take” clause which means they will get paid for carbon sequestered but they or subsequent owners will have to buy credits back if carbon is released within the lifespan of the project. This is my most serious concern - even using their numbers you are selling at $25, but your buy-back obligation in year 10 is at $40 - this could be ruinous.”

One must understand the productivity benefits of sequestering carbon in the soil. Who would want to release the carbon and forego the productivity and environmental benefits?

Anyone sequestering carbon in their soils just for a quick buck is doing it for the wrong reasons and will probably fail anyway. They need to be convinced of the ‘sustainability’ benefits first otherwise the management will be reactive and not proactive.

The other part of the answer is below.

Q: “The money to actually pay the $4599 comes from what is described as "Income Retained for future payment Pool" - using the example in their info by year 10 there will be somewhat more than $194,400 in this pool - this capital sum has been seeded by the farmer out of his income - let this sum earn even just 5% interest and you have $9720 - pay out the $4599 and there is a $5121 surplus - what happens to this?? How is this retained money treated - is it the farmers money held in trust by CarbonLink - or is it another "fee" paid by the farmer - there are some serious tax and fiduciary issues depending on the answers.
This is a very rough view and does not allow for taxation but their numbers make a "constant value" assumption so lets go with equally rough here - if you want to capitalise the say 5% interest earned each year on the $19,440 retention and allow it to build up you start off with more than $194,400 - close to $250,000 in fact - who gets this extra? At $250,000 and using 5% interest earned you have $12500 interest income less the payment to the landowner of $4599 - so the starting difference in year 1 is not $5121 - it is now $7901. This seems to be a standard "funds under management" type of deal with money for the bankers.”

To get a soil carbon project verified you need to be very conservative in both the calculation of the carbon sequestered and in paying out all of the funds up front. This is the principle that Carbon Link started with.

The funds will accumulate to quite sizeable amounts over time. These funds remain the property of the farmer. Carbon Link is not a funds manager and has no intention of becoming one. Therefore, discussions are being held with funds managers about how best to achieve the goals of safety and return on investment.

Q: “If the farmer must guarantee the carbon for 70 years what guarantee is there that the money in the income retained pool will be there for 70 years?”

See answer above.

Q: “Looked at over the 70 year time period this is a VERY front-ended deal with a long long tail loaded with a sting. The “smart” move for any landowner entering into such a deal would be to bleed the dollars out in years 1 thru 7 or 8 – then sell the 60 year liability and potential need to buy back credits to some other mug.”

We are talking about saving the planet! The restrictions on landholders are currently annoying (e.g. invasive scrub) but our bet is that when soil’s potential as a carbon sink is recognized there will be some very strong legislation put in place to protect the sink.

Our bet is that it will take more than 10 years to fill the sink – probably more like 20 to 30 years depending on the location.

Again why would someone want to destroy the productivity benefits of the accumulated soil carbon? If someone really wants to plough the farm then he will have to calculate the cost of doing so (loss of carbon income; loss of productivity; cost of covering the emissions; plus almost certain government penalties) versus his estimate of the income from doing so.

Most close to the industry are well aware of the productivity benefits that the best regenerative graziers are getting from their land. The drivers of the Carbon Link business are the several thousand farmers and graziers who have been trained by RCS. Certainly these families are interested in the dollars but they are more interested in handing on a very healthy landscape to those who follow them.

Q: “The only real solid thing CarbonLink have said is that you can book in for a baselining at $20 per hectare - what is this baselining good for - not needed for CCX, not good enough for Kyoto or Greenhouse Friendly - only real use is for a CarbonLink trading scheme that doesn't even exist yet. The cynic in me questions just why this was announced so prematurely.”

Please see previous answers on the projected cost. The Carbon Link business model uses a local business as its preferred registry and exchange. Also, as we have told you before, Carbon Link also intends to make its rules as close as possible to those likely under any mandated scheme.

The reasons Carbon Link was launched when it was are very obvious and have been relayed to all serious enquirers. These are that we capitalised on the launch of the Financial and Energy Exchange (FEX) by the former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and that we provided evidence of commitment to our early stage investors and the several thousand RCS clients who have been demanding such a service for sometime. The FEX exchange has been extremely supportive and is very committed to a long term relationship with Carbon Link.

I look forward to seeing you in Mudgee at the conference.

Best wishes,

Rod Rush
CEO, Carbon Link Pty Ltd

More Carbon Link Questions

Carbon Link has sure stirred up nest of activity. Its system is intricately designed, with many elements and implications. A Coalition member asks these questions:
Agreed it appears to be good news at first - but the sceptical accountant in me has some niggling questions. There is usually a financial play lurking in the shadows.
1. What large emitter pays retail for big volumes? Rio did the Qld trees deal at well under $5 per tonne.
2. Projections based on $25 (and in fact $40 is used in year 10 for the sale of the back-up 25% with no reason given for the jump in price) when the current market is sub-$5 are "generous" - redo the numbers on $10 per tonne and ?? Also using "constant values" ... artificially boosts perceived benefits ($5 in 50 years time is not the same as $5 today)
3. At a sub-$10 price do CarbonLink still do their verification for 20% - ie $2
4. The impact on values for land may be real - maybe not in the desired direction however. All the real money flows out to the owner of the land in years 1 thru 10. But for Years 11 thru 70 using the example the annual income to the landowner is $4,599 on 1000 hectares - just $4.60 per hectare - what restrictions/obligations are placed on the owner during this period - and do these restrictions/obligations act to limit his/her options to a value perceived to be much more than $4.60 per hectare. (I have not even discounted the $4.60 for inflation - do any sort of DCF and the income for years 25 on is negligible in todays terms - $4.60 in 25 years time using a 5% inflation rate is just $1.28, in 50 years just 35 cents). If you were buying a property in 10 years that had "done its dash" with soil carbon, and you were lumbered with a meagre annual return for some hefty obligations (any penalties??) what way would you want to see the price adjusted? Carbonlink website has the following note - Contracts with the land holder will have a “put-and-take” clause which means they will get paid for carbon sequestered but they or subsequent owners will have to buy credits back if carbon is released within the lifespan of the project. This is my most serious concern - even using their numbers you are selling at $25, but your buy-back obligation in year 10 is at $40 - this could be ruinous.
5. The money to actually pay the $4599 comes from what is described as "Income Retained for future payment Pool" - using the example in their info by year 10 there will be somewhat more than $194,400 in this pool - this capital sum has been seeded by the farmer out of his income - let this sum earn even just 5% interest and you have $9720 - pay out the $4599 and there is a $5121 surplus - what happens to this?? How is this retained money treated - is it the farmers money held in trust by CarbonLink - or is it another "fee" paid by the farmer - there are some serious tax and fiduciary issues depending on the answers.
This is a very rough view and does not allow for taxation but their numbers make a "constant value" assumption so lets go with equally rough here - if you want to capitalise the say 5% interest earned each year on the $19,440 retention and allow it to build up you start off with more than $194,400 - close to $250,000 in fact - who gets this extra? At $250,000 and using 5% interest earned you have $12500 interest income less the payment to the landowner of $4599 - so the starting difference in year 1 is not $5121 - it is now $7901. This seems to be a standard "funds under management" type of deal with money for the bankers.
6. If the farmer must guarantee the carbon for 70 years what guarantee is there that the money in the income retained pool will be there for 70 years?
7. Looked at over the 70 year time period this is a VERY front-ended deal with a long long tail loaded with a sting. The “smart” move for any landowner entering into such a deal would be to bleed the dollars out in years 1 thru 7 or 8 – then sell the 60 year liability and potential need to buy back credits to some other mug.
8. The only real solid thing CarbonLink have said is that you can book in for a baselining at $20 per hectare. But what is this baselining good for? It's not needed for CCX, not good enough for Kyoto or Greenhouse Friendly. It's only real use is for a CarbonLink trading scheme that doesn't exist yet.