Friday, February 27, 2009

Opt In to Possibility Thinking

Congratulations to Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition on the 'opt-in' concept for Agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme. Congratulations on the whole biosequestration push.It is the first piece of clear thinking to arise in this debate. Strangely enough a similar idea came up in a workshop group at a Cattle Council brainstorm last week, which I shared with Prof. Peter Grace from QUT, the rangelands expert. We focussed our thinking on reducing risks inherent in a trading system for growers and came up with an '"Environmental Tax Credits" system - a trainer-wheels trading scheme underwritten for the first 5 years by the Government to keep the risk down for growers and buyers. Farmers opt in by signing a contract to manage their land in a certain way for 5 years. In return they receive a certain number of Australian Country Bonds, the number determined by 1. how many different functions they opt in for (eg, maximum ground cover, pasture cover, applying recognised inoculants, etc.Ie. actions known to sequester carbon) and 2. their performance each year. And the primary function of accumulating bonds is to meet their obligations for methane and N2O. These Bonds also entitle them to trade a commensurate number of 'estimated' credits on the voluntary offset market. In 5 years they can learn how to respond to a market mechanism and the system can be ramped up, changed, or replaced with another motivational mechanism.
There are many solutions yet to be discovered. The difference between today and yesterday is that bodies ike the Opposition and the NFF are suggesting that Kyoto is not etched in stone, and that we can become possibility thinkers again instead of being repressed by reference to the RULES.
Shadow Environment Minister Greg Hunt said accounting for the emissions "is a problem, but one that can be addressed". Soil carbon was not counted towards international greenhouse commitment, he said but "the international situation has to be changed in the current negotiations and we should be fighting to make sure that it is".
Nationals Farmers Federation chief executive Ben Fargher said he hoped the Government would support the idea of farmers "opting in" to the scheme to receive incentives to reduce their emissions. "We shouldn't let the problem that it isn't allowed under the international rules stop us," he said. Hurrah. The NFF thinks the previously unthinkable.
The 'opt in' option could make farmers $3bn annually. The Opposition says we can sequester 150m tonnes CO2-e annually.
The Politicians are motivated by Politics. There are points to score in this debate: but we will take allies wherever we can get them. Every day we get closer to the solution. We gain legitimacy. Our opponents learn that we are not the dangerous rogues they supposed...


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