Sunday, November 21, 2010

Highlights of Draft Design of Carbon Farming Initiative, Part 3

Unlike most markets around the world, the CFI is legislated. Its reason is they want to 'provide long term certainty to participants': The fundamental principle behind the Government's approach is this: Buyers are the most important participants because unless they feel confident that they are getting what they paid for, they won't buy. For this reason, offets must meet the most stringent standards... "To underpin the environmental integrity and market value of carbon credits, abatement will need to meet internationally consistent integrity standards." But if the Integrity Principles make it too hard for farmers they won't change their land management practices or maintain the change if they have already made it. The Scheme has 2 Design Principles that are in contradiction. Design Principle 1: "Ensuring environmental integrity - credits that represent genuine and additional emissions abatement will have a higher market value and help address climate change." Design Principle 2: "Enabling broad participation - clear and simple rules will keep administrative costs low and ensure that farmers.. can benefit from the scheme." The contradiction: The Government will not achieve broad participation if it insists on a strictly by-the-book Kyoto approach to issues such as Additionality and Permanence. The barrier to purchase is not ultimately fear of being short changed. It is ignorance of the urgency of the need to get every farmer in Australia and the world to capture and hold as much carbon in their soils as possible, for as long as possible because, unless they do, the chance of limiting global warming to an increase of 2°C is gone. (See the facts at Only Soil Carbon Can Keep The Lid On 2°C)

Highlights of Draft Design of Carbon Farming Initiative, Part 2

What is the difference between the CFI and NCOS and CPRS and ETS? It's simple: The CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) was a proposal by the Rudd Government for a "Compliance"-based "Cap & Trade" market for emissions offsets. That is an ETS or Emissions Trading Scheme. "Compliance" means 'compulsory'. "Cap & Trade" means emitters must change their business practices to reduce their emissions to reach a target level or 'cap'.. If they cannot reach that target in the timeframe given (called a Compliance Period) they must purchase 'offsets' or 'permits' from emitters who exceeded their targets and earned credits by doing so, or from companies earning credits by generating renewable energy or from companies earning credits by sequestering or capturing and holding CO2 in forests. Under the Rudd CPRS scheme only 1000 companies were required to meet a target in each compliance period. They were the 1000 top emitters. They could purchase offsets from local or international companies. The NCOS (National Carbon Offset Standard) was designed to operate alongside the CPRS 'compliance' market by providing a "Voluntary" scheme. It makes available to Australian companies and consumers a source of Australian offsets that they can purchase to offset their emissions so that they can make an advertising claim that their products etc. are carbon neutral or simply to make contribution to the climate change effort by offsetting a family's emissions. The NCOS covers only domestic offsets offered to voluntary buyers. The Carbon Farming Initiative completes the set. It covers domestic and international markets, both compliance and voluntary. The only market not covered is the market that is yet to start: the CPRS or the national domestic compliance market.

Who are the buyers?

Demand for CFI credits is expected to come from foreign governments seeking to meet their Kyoto obligations, as well as companies overseas seeking to meet their obligations under national or regional schemes, such as the EU Emission Trading Scheme. CFI credits could also be attractive to companies operating in markets dominated by the voluntary market, such as Australia's traditional trade partner Japan. One important category of buyers not mentioned in the Consultation Paper are consumers overseas who are fans of the country and have a soft spot for Aussie farmers. Back at home, some companies need offsets to meet obligations where State Governments have introduced their own compliance schemes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Highlights of Draft Design of Carbon Farming Initiative, Part 1

The Carbon Farming Initiative first saw daylight as an election promise - which could make it a fragile prospect for ever being delivered. But when seen in context, it is a sure thing (as sure as anything can be in a 'balanced Parliament' environment)... When the CPRS crashed and burned, Australian consumers and corporates wanting to 'abate' their emissions were offered the voluntary market in the form of the National Carbon Offset Standard. It covers all offsets not covered in Australia's Kyoto commitment - which is mainly farm carbon offsets. Alas, forestry is covered by our Kyoto commitment and its promoters were looking forward to a bonanza under the CPRS. Instead they had the floor fall away from underneath them and the forests ceased marching across the countryside. The CFI plugs that gap for forests because it applies to both Kyoto and non-Kyoto offsets. So the CFI and the NCOS fit together.

The scheme covers reforestation and revegetation; reduced methane emissions from livestock; reduced fertiliser emissions; manure management; reduced emissions and/or increased sequestration in agricultural soils (soil carbon); savanna fire management; avoided deforestation; burning of stubble/crop residue; reduced emissions from rice cultivation; and reduced emissions from landfill waste.

The scheme is scheduled to start on 1 July, 2011.

Farmers to shape Carbon Farming Initiative

Carbon Farmers of Australia and the Carbon Coalition were sent an advance copy of the consultation paper on the Carbon Farming Initiative, for discussion at a stakeholder consultation meeting in Canberra on Friday 19 November. “This consultation paper is the first step in a dialogue with stakeholders about the CFI. It describes and seeks stakeholder feedback on a range of options in relation to the design of the scheme,” said Shayleen Thompson, First Assistant Secretary, Land Division, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. [PIC: Shayleen Thompson met Tom Nicholas, chairman of Healthy Soils Australia at the consultation.]
Submissions are due by 21 January 2011. “The meeting on Friday will provide an opportunity to work through and explain the content of the paper, and respond to any questions, which may assist your organisation to understand and consider the options and provide feedback to the government.” Also at the stakeholder consultation was Maya Stewart-Fox, Director, New Policy, who spoke at the Carbon Farming Conference, and we also met Rohan Nelson, Director, Carbon Farming Initiative. The attitude of the Department was genuinely consultitative… We detected a desire to make the CFI work and a belief that farmers – far from being told what to do - could be a useful source of ideas for what the Department should do. [PIC:Meeting the Minister's Senior Advisor Peter Nicholas.] We also found the same approach in Minister Greg Combet’s Senior Advisor Peter Nicholas who we met last month at the Carbon Expo in Melbourne. He also attended the meeting in Canberra and told us that the Minister was expecting a lot of ideas from the sector.

Australian Farm Offsets to Japan?

The Voluntary Market is not a side issue in Japan where companies are buying so many offsets they could enable the Japanese Government to meet its obligations. The Japanese Government sent two senior carbon market analysts from Mitsubishi Bank on a world tour of countries that could produce offsets that Japanese companies can purchase. Mr Hemmi Tatsushi and Ms Miyuki Konuma from Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting, Environmental Policy Consulting Dept. We Mr Hemmi and Ms Konuma as part of a delegation from Sustainable Business Australia, which we joined recently.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coal industry predicts opportunity for soils?

The International Energy Agency's annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) says that the major governments’ commitment to a 2°C temperature target would mean coal demand will have to peak by 2020, and by 2035 will have dropped to 2003 levels.
Under a 2°C scenario, coal and oil’s 46% share of global electricity generation would fall to 22% in 2030. The share captured by non-hydro renewables would go from 3% to 20%.
Writing in Climate Spectator, Paul Gilding says the 2°C is widely respected: "It is the line in the sand scientists have drawn and said, if we go past it we face catastrophic system-wide risk. While some scientists argue that number is too high and too risky, none of any consequence argue it is too low. That’s why the governments of China, India, Europe and the USA have all agreed, along with many global corporates, that 2°C is the line we can’t cross."
SOil CARBON is the Solution.

Good News: Soil beats coal hands down for emissions

Two people who deserve special mention for their effective advocacy of The Soil Carbon Solution are Tony Lovell from Soil Carbon Australia and John White from Ignite Energy. John has welter of powerful facts in his arsenal, some of which we list here:

1. There is now more carbon in the atmosphere and in oceans from degraded landscape, namely soils, than has been emitted by the burning of fossil fuels since the the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
2. In the last 200-odd years, the amount of carbon lost from soils is estimated at around 500 billion tons, while the amount created by fossil fuel emissions is estimated at around 360 billion tons – making the focus on fossil fuels emissions as the predominant cause of climate change, arguably, misplaced.
3. In Australia, scientists have estimated that soil carbon lost since European settlement, by traditional grazing and cropping on the 500 million hectares of Australian rangelands and farmlands, could be as much as 150-200 billion tons. This is equivalent to around 300 years of Australia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Meanwhile, the world’s forests and oceans currently take up about 40 per cent of annual human CO2 emissions, of around 30 billion tons a year.
5. A reason for this shortfall is that there are over three billion hectares of managed grazing and cropping lands on the planet, most of which are now well below their saturation soil carbon capacity.
6. These lands are now net emitters of greenhouse gases.
7. A 0.1 per cent increase in soil carbon in these agricultural lands could reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by around 4 ppm.
8. A 0.1 per cent increase in soil carbon on just 10 per cent of Australia’s cropping and grazing lands, each year, would offset all of Australia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
9. Professor Ross Garnaut has called biosequestration “potentially Australia’s most important contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases.”
10. The International Federation of Agricultural Producers says “economic incentives are needed to enable farmers to implement more sustainable agricultural practices. Carbon credit systems would reward farmers for their contribution to climate mitigation through carbon sequestering activities.”
11. In July 2009 the Portuguese government introduced a soil carbon offsets scheme based on dryland pasture improvement compliant with Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol. The Portuguese data shows that under sown perennial pasture soil organic matter increased by around 0.21 per cent per annum over a 10 year period.
12. There are now hundreds of farms in Australia that have converted to biological farming and fertilising systems, and planned grazing techniques that, while being more profitable, successfully and sustainably sequester CO2 in the soils as soil carbon.
13. Little has been done so far by our science institutes to study such success stories.
14. The Australian government should ... encourage every farmer in Australia to adopt farm practices that build soil carbon.
15. Biological carbon capture use and storage (Bio-CCS) needs to become common practice for Australia's agriculture industry. Not only would it mean a huge reduction in Australia's carbon emissions, it has the great advantage that it uses CO2 to deliver useful products and better environmental, employment and health outcomes, at very low-cost, with positive GDP impacts, and potentially at huge-scale in the near-term.

Bravo John White.

Food Security Action Fund Miserly Compared to "Clean Coal"

Reuters reports a global fund of $20 million a year for 10 years has been established to research how to feed the world population in the face of worsening floods and droughts. By 2050, global "potential to produce food" could decline by 5 to 10 percent, after an average increase through 2020, according to Andy Jarvis, an agriculture policy expert at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, based in Colombia. The program will use an Australian climate model to look at how rising temperatures and rainfall changes affect 50 major crops worldwide including sorghum, millet, sweet potato, wheat, rice and maize. Climate models point to accelerating declines in production of rain-fed wheat worldwide of 2.2 percent by 2020, 4 percent by 2050 and 18.6 percent by 2080, unless climate change is curbed or effective adaptive measures are put in place, scientists told reporters.
Maintaining adequate food production in the face of climate pressures may require some societies to switch their staple crops, if varieties more tolerant of drought, floods and pests cannot be successfully developed.
The amount of funding applied to this project compared with the billions spent on coal technology is revealing of distorted priorities. (Source: Climate Spectator)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The slide presentations from the Carbon Farming Conference have been posted on the conference website at Dr Jeff Baldock (pictured) reported on progress of the Soil Carbon Research Program.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DOIC Member "Gets It"

Mark Dangerfield is a member of the DOIC – the Government’s Domestic Offset Integrity Committee. He is an experienced forest project developer. He also speaks sense about soil carbon, in an article in climate Spectator in September, before he was appointed:
“There is a consensus among climate scientists that the net greenhouse gas emission reductions we must achieve to keep warming below dangerous levels cannot happen without the agricultural sector. They are right, it can’t.“There are three reasons for this assertion. The first is that emission reductions from energy efficiency, mitigation and renewable projects will struggle to keep pace with ever-growing emissions from global energy demand. Mitigation projects in energy sectors will slow emission rates but leave legacy emissions in the atmosphere.
“The second reason follows from a need to deal with this legacy. Smart agricultural and forestry practices can suck back CO2 and store it in vegetation and soil – so-called biosequestration. In Australia the sequestration potential in agriculture alone is 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (CO2e) per annum, or a quarter of Australian anthropogenic emissions with the bonus that soil with more carbon in it is far better for production that soil with less.”
“The third reason, and the big one, is land clearing…” He advocates ‘Improved Forestry management’ – actively maintaining carbon stocks in stands of trees as they revolve through a lifecycle to harvesting. We believe that arrangement could form part of an integrated farm carbon plan, in the right circmstances.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Soil carbon credits in Kenya

Small-holder farmers in Kenya are involved in the first soil carbon project in Africa. The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project iaims to improve food security, help address climate change, and improve the livelihoods of rural dwellers.
“The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project is not only the first project that sells soil carbon credits in Africa, it is also paving the way for a new approach to carbon accounting methodologies,” says JoĆ«lle Chassard, Manager of the Carbon Finance Unit at the World Bank.
The Emission Reductions Purchase Agreement (ERPA),. adds the benefits of carbon finance to a sustainable agricultural land management project that increases the productivity of the Kenyan farmers and also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Developed with the support of the World Bank, the project generates carbon credits which are sold to the Bank-administered BioCarbon Fund. The direct benefit to local communities is over US$350,000 with an initial payment of US$80,000 to be made in the first year, 2011.
The Project, implemented by the Swedish non-governmental organization Vi Agroforestry, is located on 45,000 hectares in the Nyanza Province and Western Province of Kenya. There, small-holder farmers and small-scale business entrepreneurs are trained in diverse cropland management techniques such as covering crops, crop rotation, compost management, and agro-forestry. These practices increase the yield of the land and generate additional sources of income for the farmers through the payment for environmental services in the form of carbon credits.
“The development of a new methodology for carbon sequestration in agriculture has great direct benefits for the farmers in Kenya and tremendous potential for scaling up.
The BioCarbon Fund purchases emission reductions from afforestation and reforestation projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), as well as from land-use sector projects outside the CDM. These include projects that increase carbon sequestration in soils through improved agriculture practices. The BioCarbon Fund develops methodologies and tools that are in the public domain