Friday, March 25, 2011

Abbott Opposition backs Government's Carbon Farming plans

The Carbon Farming legislation has bipartisan support in Parliament, according to Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt. "This is something that should be embraced on all sides. And as we speak, the Government is preparing its carbon farming initiative. We support that approach because it's about using soil carbons, it's about capturing carbon in trees... and doing real things to reduce emissions," he said on ABCTV's Lateline on 23 March. "The important message that we can capture in our soils a reduction in global CO2 by improving the soil carbons, by improving the carrying capacity. So irrespective of where you stand on the climate debate, you improve the soil productivity, you improve the water retention, and this is one of the great opportunities and it's one of the reasons why I am fundamentally optimistic that with the right incentives we can reduce emissions, improve our water yield and improve our productivity."

Greg Hunt also answered the Farm Institute director Mick Keogh's constant mistaken claim that soil carbon won't be recognised internationally:

STEVE CANNANE: Soil carbon is not currently recognised under international carbon accounting rules. If that's the case, you've got a big hole in our emissions target, don't you?
GREG HUNT: Completely false.
STEVE CANNANE: That's completely false? It's not used - carbon soil ...
GREG HUNT: No, you're completely false, because as of 2012, one of two things will occur in the world. Either, a new international agreement will be struck which will include soil carbon. That's currently under negotiation with the United States and Australia engaged. Or there will be no international agreement, in which case nations will be able to pledge their own figures and soil carbon would also be admissible. Under either of those scenarios, soil carbon will be on the table.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Bill Has Been Tabled

The CARBON CREDITS (CARBON FARMING INITIATIVE) BILL 2011 was today tabled in the House of Representatives by the Minister Greg Combet. The Government want the legislation passed in time for a 1 July, 2011 start. Congratulations to you, the 'true believers' who did not lose heart when the odds seemed stacked against us. We are now at the pointy end. There are still many obstacles to overcome. If everyone sees the broad context - the benefits to our families and communities if every farmer changes their practices - we will find ways to overcome obstacles. There are too many unusual things happening now to put global soil carbon sequestration off for further trials and research. We either act now or reap the whirlwind.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good riddance, Additionality

Additionality has disappeared! It was in the first Template For Submission of Methodologies under the Carbon Farming Initiative, but it slipped out somewhere in the second "Interim" template. It was there in 'Section 5: Baseline scenario' - 'Specify the procedures for identifying the baseline scenario most likely to occur in the absence of the ability to generate CFI credits. This may include analysis of financial or other barriers.' Ross Garnaut recommended that it be delisted. We recommended the same. As did others. (IS that 'common practice'?) Additionality is the absurd integrity provision which denies farmers access to offsets if the new land management practice they adopt increases production of vegetation (a co-benefit of soil carbon sequestration) or if several farmers in the district had adopted that change before him (broad adoption is the key to other co-benefits, including landscape regeneration)... based on the absurd proposition that the farmer 'would have done it anyway, so why should they earn offsets for it?' This is based on equally absurd assumptions: 1. 'Farmers automatically adopt management practices that increase production or lower costs.' Carbon Farming techniques, such as grazing management, have been around for 30 years. Why have they not adopted it before? (Perhaps because for most of that time science was 'proving' that it did not work and extension was rubbishing it.) 2. 'Farmers follow the leader when deciding on management practices.' Not when it is a new paradigm that challenges everything they learned from their parents, their teachers and their advisers to date. The suggestion that Additionality should apply to Agriculture could only be made in ignorance of farmer psychology.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Great Carbon Tax Debate

We humans are simple animals. We might have massive brain power, but we let our animal instincts rule our lives - which could endanger the survival of our species. Faced with overwhelming evidence of Climate Change and a pathway to reduce the damage, what have we done? We looked for a way out of doing something about it - and the 'science' of denial became an overnight success. It promised to make Climate Change go away. Marketing experts know three secrets about humans that they use over and over to manipulate buyer behaviour: 1. The two most powerful drivers of human behaviour are lust and fear - lust for gain and fear off loss. 2. Of the two, Fear is the more powerful. 3. Humans prefer instant gratification to delayed gratification. They'd rather enjoy themselves now than invest in something they can experience later - even if this means survival. With this is mind, consider the lines adopted by the competing sides in the Great Carbon Tax Debate. One side uses a slogan a day to catch headlines that paint the 'tax' as the greatest threat to human happiness in history. The other side will rely upon a sensible discussion with the electorate about complex matters that may or may not happen in 50 years time. See where this is heading?

The Carbon Farming Express is arriving - but will all the carriages be there?

GOOD NEWS! The DOIC will be ready to receive Meths in a matter of two weeks. (DOIC - the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee - the Government-appointed expert panel tasked to assess 'meths' and recommend to the Minister whether to register them for use by farmers and landholders to earn carbon credits, or offsets. 'Meths' is shorthand for Methodologies which describe the way they will reduce emissions or increase carbon capture or sequestration.)
Our meeting last Friday with officials from key sections of the two departments responsible for the Carbon Farming Initiative - Climate Change and Agriculture - we learned three other important things: 1. The early practices to be certified include savanna burning, deforestration, manure management in piggeries, and landfill gas. 2. An interim Template for submitting Meths will be released next week so we can get a 'head start'... 'as soon as possible'... 'can be used to submit immediately'... 3. The next time we see the legislation will be when it is tabled in Parliament. The Departments expect delays for soils and livestock and are 'scoping the research phase' - deciding which practices will get the money based on the amount of abatement possible, the state of the science, the information gaps, and barriers to adoption. Expectations may be low, but what's in the meths that will soon be exposed to the DOIK? Solutions arrived at by non-scientific enquiry, more like a design exercise - innovation and creativity. That's what offsets trading is all about.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

$8-$10 tonne 'less than market value'

From The Age, 2 March

Launching his latest update to his 2008 climate review, Professor Garnaut suggested the Coalition's proposal would struggle to win over farmers as it would pay them less than the likely market value of their work.

''[The Coalition proposal] of $8 to $10 a tonne is short-changing Australian farmers - abatement is worth more than that,'' he said.

Professor Garnaut said there was not much point second-guessing how much farmers would be prepared to do, but he said there were great opportunities to cut emissions using soil carbon. He said both sides of politics were right to investigate it.


From the Sydney Morning Herald, 3 March

On Tuesday Professor Ross Garnaut said it was unlikely the Coalition would achieve the calculated abatement for the price it was offering.

Michael Kiely, the co-convener of the Carbon Coalition, who was cited by the opposition in support of its policy when it was released last February, said yesterday the price offered to farmers for soil carbon abatement should ''start at $25 and head north''.

Mr Kiely said some abatement might be possible at $8 to $10 a tonne, but farmers would be cautious about taking on the risk involved in the long-term commitment to leave the carbon permanently stored, and could need to be paid a ''stewardship payment'' of another $5 a tonne every five years or so.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ross lets loose the Government's Secret Plan

  • "Movement toward comprehensive coverage of all land sectors under a carbon pricing mechanism would yield economic and environmental benefits." Ross Garnaut let slip a secret plan? So the 'fart tax' and the 'fert tax' are still alive. "Coverage" means you are responsible for your emissions. So, for how long will we be free from "Coverage?", Minister? (In a strict reading of the Principle of Leakage, under the Carbon Farming Initiative, the grower will be asked to account for their emissions.) Is this the plan?

Garnaut plays it again, with additions

  • Professor Ross Garnaut's review of his original report has confirmed that farmers are essential to the battle against Climate Change: "The natural processes of biosequestration must be central to any ambitious global effort to meet targets for limiting temperature increase, and are the only known channel for actually reducing concentrations after emissions targets have been exceeded." He complains about the sorry shortage of science: "Improvements to emissions estimation methods and mechanisms for monitoring permanence of sequestration remain critical requirements for further developing and realising mitigation strategies in rural Australia." Prof. Garnaut believes Australia should lead the way for the global community to bring sanity to the Kyoto Protocols: "Australia can define best practice on accounting approaches and emissions management by adopting domestic mitigation measures with broad coverage and full recognition of co-benefits." He points to the absurdity embedded in the principle of 'financial additionality' which holds that projects earning offsets cannot result in increased production or profit because it is assumed that a farmer would have made the change to chase the higher production and profit anyway. Grazing management that doesn't increase biomass? Only a scientist would believe that! We are wary of some of Professor G.'s suggestions, such as 'While offset schemes, and a carbon price, will provide incentives for increased biosequestration activities, they should be supported by other incentives and regulatory safeguards to help encourage co-benefits, such as for biodiversity.' Where did that come from? Carbon Farming, properly executed, increases biodiversity. (More to come)