Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's Official: Best Farmers Will Be Penalised

Government agencies such as Catchment Management Authorities may have led farmers to disqualify themselves from earning money for growing the carbon in their soils. Farmers who switch to green farming practices before the Government’s new Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee (DOIC) decides on a method of measuring soil carbon will be shut out of the market, if Kyoto principles are strictly observed.
Maya Stewart-Fox, Director, Emerging Markets, Department of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency indicated in her presentation to the Carbon Farming Conference that the Government wants a strict interpretation of the Kyoto principles. If DOIC insists on a black and white approach to the Additionality Principle, many thousands of Australia’s best farmers will be denied access to the market for soil carbon offsets because they have already made the change to ‘carbon farming’ and don’t need an incentive to achieve the Government’s goal.

The reasoning behind the Additionality is explained below.

The number of farmers affected by this “Additionality Dilemma” would be in the thousands, and they would be the best farmers in their districts. How did this happen? Plainly the CMA’s involved were not sufficiently aware of the Additionality Principle when they were advising their ‘clients’.

What options exist for farmers affected? They are few: 1. Cop it sweet and accept the advice of so many advisers that they should not look upon carbon offsets as a revenue stream, but only as a side-benefit. The farmer, according to these advisers (invariably not farmers themselves), should be satisfied with the environmental and production benefits. 2. Burn and plough rigorously to reduce your soil carbon levels and establish a new ‘business as usual’ from which you can possibly remake the change and qualify. 3. Join other affected farmers in a class action against the government agencies to recover the lost revenue. 4. Lobby the government agencies, farmers associations and other advisers who promoted the advice mentioned in point 1. to put pressure on the Commonwealth Government to abandon the Additionality Principle for Agriculture.

As a general word of warning, commentators such as farmers' associations, government extension services, and others whose role involves giving advice to farmers on matters relating to carbon markets should be aware that there is a possibility that such advice might be construed by a court as relating to financial or investment decisions, exposing the advice-giver to an action in law for losses incurred as a result of acting on their advice. In cases where the advice-giver holds out to have expert knowledge on which the farmer can rely, there is a possibility of a class action.

The Carbon Coalition's advice is for the CMAs involved to seek legal advice on the issue and to join the Coalition's campaign to have the Additionality Principle reconfigured for the Agriculture sector.

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