Friday, June 24, 2011

Trees cost too much, take too long

It will cost too much to plant large carbon forests, says the CSIRO which has been studying areas of opportunity for carbon forestry, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin. It found the shortage of tree seed and labour would limit plantings. "What you find is if there's a high establishment cost, say $3000 per hectare, and you start to look at commercial interest rates, it's going to take a high carbon price, say over $40 a tonne, to see any real area of opportunity over which carbon forestry will be profitable," says Dr Michael Battaglia.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Questions About Carbon Farming "Market Trials"

The Carbon Farming & Trading Association welcomes the NSW State Government's announcement of a 'trial market' for Carbon Farming in the Lachlan Catchment of NSW. 300 farmers will be invited to get involved in a 5 year trial of soil carbon sequestration. But the fact that a State Government program should be launched just as a Commonwealth Government program is about to be passed by Parliament and commence on 1st July, 2011 prompts the Association to offer farmers the following questions to ask before committing to a contract:
1. How will involvement in this program affect the farmer's ability to enter the national market under the Carbon Farming Initiative?
2. Would involvement in a soil carbon scheme disqualify the farmer under the Additionality Principle which demands that a land management practice cannot generate offsets if it is 'business as usual'? There must be a shift in behaviour to a new land management regime to qualify for Carbon Offsets under the Carbon Farming Initiative.
3. Will the involvement of 300 farmers in 3 districts push all farmers in those districts out of the CFI program under the "Common Practice" requirement, which says that a farmer is likely to make the change anyway when many others are changing?
4. What method for measurement of soil carbon will be used in the State Government program and will it be recognised under the CFI?
5. Will the contract require that the soil carbon captured be held for 100 years? This is a requirement of the Permanence Principle.
6. Will the farmer be free to use combinations of land management practices together to maximise soul carbon sequestration, as is the standard practice with experienced carbon farmers? If the program allows only for single practice change (eg. from conventional to no-till cultivation) it will not be a fair trial of what farmers can do.
7. Are farmers to be rewarded for the actual amounts of carbon they capture?

The State Government proposes this program (which is more like an incentive-based extension program that a trading scheme) as an alternative to the Commonwealth's market model. The State Minister says that the program will reveal the best way to pay farmers for sequestering carbon in soil. But do Governments have the resources to fund a permanent shift in agricultural practices?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

INVITATION - Join Our LinkedIn Group

We have started a Group on LinkedIn called Carbon Farmers of Australia. It aims to give everyone interested in carbon farming a place for conversation and to forge links with non-farmers/city people... You're invited and so are your friends and colleagues.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Earthquakes and Volcanoes

There seem to be too many earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes on our television screens of late. Imagine the outrage of the witchburners (loonies who send death threats to climate scientists) if it was suggested that earthquakes and volcanoes could be associated with climate change. Well those of us who feel a sense of urgency about action on climate - and espouse the need for massive soil carbon sequestration to stall global warming - are interested in considering the possibility. In recent years, New Scientist and Scientific American have published reports on the matter and in the Royal Society's Journal* we find this:

"Periods of exceptional climate change in Earth history are associated with a dynamic response from the solid Earth, involving enhanced levels of potentially hazardous geological and geomorphological activity. This response is expressed through the adjustment, modulation or triggering of a wide range of surface and crustal phenomena, including volcanic and seismic activity, submarine and sub-aerial landslides, tsunamis and landslide 'splash' waves glacial outburst and rock-dam failure floods, debris flows and gas-hydrate destabilisation. Looking ahead, modelling studies and projection of current trends point towards increased risk in relation to a spectrum of geological and geomorphological hazards in a world warmed by anthropogenic climate change, while observations suggest that the ongoing rise in global average temperatures may already be eliciting a hazardous response from the geosphere."

Now at what frequency of natural disasters do we need to reach before the soil carbon solution is summoned?

*Bill McGuire, Richard Betts, Christopher Kilburn, Mark Maslin, David Pyle, John Smellie and David Tappin, Climate forcing of geological and geomorphological hazards, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, May 2010

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hail the Enthusiasts

Congratulations to all the farmers who have kept an open mind on soil carbon and especially to those leading farmers who dared to go public with their soil carbon results. Dismissed as 'enthusiasts', they are the innovators who are leading the way to the new agriculture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Carbon Farming Bill Passed

You should be proud of your achievement because today is a red letter day for the Carbon Farming movement: The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 was passed by the House of Representatives this morning. It was opposed by the National Party and the Liberal Party on the grounds that too much of the detail is to be released as Regulation. (The reason for so much detail being left to the regulation process is because this is a world first on so many fronts that we are inventing processes as we go. If we wait until all the details are worked out, we will never get started.) In the meantime, we are working on a submission on the Positive and Negative Lists for the Department of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency. We also have a methodology for soil carbon sequestration in the final stages of preparation for submission to the government's expert panel. It features 5 year renewable contracts and risk management by a self-insurance buffer pool system. We have fashioned the methodology from a farmer's point of view. Anything less would defeat the purpose of the Legislation. The Bill Now goes to the Senate for decision.

The Carbon Farming Conference for 2011 will focus on all the opportunities for farmers to earn carbon offsets by reducing emissions or by enriching their soils. The Carbon Farming Initiative can be the catalyst for reversing the long decline in soil health and build the resilience of farm landscapes to better respond to climate extremes to come.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kiwi soils surprise scientists: Steady State theory looks shakey

The news from New Zealnd is shocking: "A group of leading soil scientists say there have been significant changes in soil carbon levels on farms." Until now the iron-clad consensus of the science community was that soils in New Zealand were saturated in carbon - that they had reached 'steady state' and could not go any further. See our report written in 2008 after a study tour of NZ - Steady State NZ. Radio NZ reports that a major research project found that

"a number of lowland dairying properties have lost carbon over the last 20 years, but hill country farms have, surprisingly, gained carbon in their soils."

The research initiative is a collaboration between the crown research institutes Plant and Food, AgResearch and Landcare.
"Programme leader Dr Brent Clothier from Plant and Food says some changes are contrary to what scientists had thought would happen, so they are trying to understand the mechanism behind the changes," says the report.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Weekly Whines

Last week the Weekly Times featured the DPI's Professor Richard Eckard telling farmers not to get their hopes up about soil carbon. This week it's the CSIRO repeating the same old song: it's too complex... it ties up nutrients... it takes forever... it's too hard to measure... Nonsense. It is not too complex. No matter what type of soil you have, no matter what climate zone you are in, your soil will store carbon and become more productive if you adopt low cost carbon farming practices. Making soil more humus rich does require nutrients, but they don't have to come out of a bag. Where did the components of humus come from before IncetecPivot? Carbon Farming increases soil microbial activity which makes nutrients more available. Does the CSIRO teach that humus rich soil is bad for production? It doesn't take forever to grow soil carbon levels. There is no peer-reviewed science that says so. Neither the CSIRO or anyone else has studied the way carbon farmers manage their soils by using combinations of practices. And as for measurement difficulties, what tosh. Scientists measure soil carbon every day and advise governments on the expenditure of millions of dollars based on these measurements. If it is good enough for science, it's good enough for carbon farming. It remains to be seen what soil carbon doomsayer you've got lined up for next week's edition. It is clear that politicians have stopped listening to scientists on this matter because of the outrageous claims they make that are unsupported by science. The day Monsanto figures out how to corner the market for soil carbon the message will change.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

G Magazine takes Carbon farming to the City

Instant Expert: Carbon farming

A growing solution to greenhouse gases

What’s a carbon farm?

Any farm can become a carbon farm by working to prevent the release of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere.

“A carbon farm is a farm that is run with an objective of not only growing food and fibre, but of growing carbon [capture] and reducing emissions.

We like to think of it as a carbon positive business entity,” says Michael Kiely, farmer and director of Carbon Farmers of Australia (CFA), who has been campaigning for soil carbon trading since 2005.

(Read more)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Killing camels for carbon credits

Northwest Carbon, a South Ausstralian carbon project developer, has a methodology involving a mass cull of outback camels. Camels emit large amounts of methane, each adult producing about a tonne of methane a year. They have no natural predators. Numbering more than one million in the center, the population is growing quickly. The methodology could generate up to 18 million carbon credits, with more than 650,000 created per year during the initial three to five years.

For information about the Carbon Farming Conference & Expo and other Carbon Farming Week activities, click here.

For information about the Carbon Farming & Trading Association, click here.

World carbon credits market US$142bn

The World Bank reports that the global carbon market slipped 1.4 percent to $142 billion in 2010, the contraction due to uncertainty about market rules after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Talks aimed at securing a Kyoto successor have failed to commit to legally binding CO2 cuts.

The value of carbon offsets generated under the protocol's primary Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) market fell to around $1.5 billion from $2.7 billion the previous year -- its lowest level since the pact came into force in 2005. “The CDM rewards companies for investing in clean energy projects, mainly in developing countries,” reports Reuters. “Investors are worried that offsets will be invalid if Kyoto is not extended or if there is a gap between old and new market mechanisms.” The economic downturn, as well as an EU ban on certain types of offsets from 2013 and competition from other, cheaper U.N. credits have depressed demand as well. Investors are turning to the UN-backed REDD forest preservation scheme, with 16.7 million credits sold in 2010, up from 2.8 million in 2009. Both the Kyoto Protocol emissions rights (AAU) market and the United States' northeastern carbon market shrank last year to a combined value of $1.1 billion from $4.3 billion in 2009. The voluntary OTC market's value rose 10 percent to $393.5 million last year, as activity increased, only 0.3 percent of the global market. The European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), continued to dominate the global market with its value up by 1 percent to $119.8 billion, 84 percent of the total transactions.

Analysts see prices averaging around 30 euros over the period 2013 to 2020.

For information about the Carbon Farming Conference & Expo and other Carbon Farming Week activities, click here.

For information about the Carbon Farming & Trading Association, click here.

Friday, June 03, 2011

We’ll all be rooned, said the Farm Institute

The Australian Farm Institute’s report on the impact of the “Carbon Tax” is factually accurate and misleading at the same time. It is factual but omits some facts which change the facts. An average grain grower’s profits will be slugged $36,000 in extra costs with carbon at $36/tonne. That’s all most farmers heard. “Carbon Tax Bad”. As an exercise in political theatre it succeeded. As a basis on which to make decisions it fails.

While the cost curve stretches uninterrupted into the future, it is a false future. It is a future without measures for protecting trade-exposed businesses like agriculture. It is a future without rising food prices as increasing demand due to population rises and shrinking supply due to Climate Change collide and force price takers to take higher prices. It is a future with no farm-based carbon credits generating revenue. And it is a future in which farmers ignore price signals and make no attempt to innovate their way around higher input prices.

The Report doesn’t conceal the fact that it is concealing the facts: “The modelling does not incorporate any assumptions about additional dynamic responses (over and above normal productivity growth) by farm business managers to the additional costs, and as such provides a projection of the potential challenge these policies will pose for farm businesses, rather than attempting to predict future outcomes.” This subtle distinction between projections and predictions reminds us of John Laws’ claim in the “Cash For Comment” scandal that he was not making commentary. He was an entertainer. His listeners would decide otherwise. Likewise these projections became predictions at the hands of the journalists. “Carbon Tax to cripple agriculture” roars the headline.

The 900lb gorilla in the kitchen is the fact that the National Farmers Federation commissioned the research to use in its negotiations with the Government. The level of hysteria surrounding the issue can only help its cause.

For information about the Carbon Farming Conference & Expo and other Carbon Farming Week activities, click here.

For information about the Carbon Farming & Trading Association, click here.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


China has a pilot program of emissions trading starting this year, reports Reuters in Climate Spectator. "It is possible in the next year we'll see some kind of carbon tax implemented," according to Qi Ye, director of the non-governmental Climate Policy Initiative at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In certain provinces, the Chinese government "is considering an absolute cap on coal consumption."Reuters reports that China is on target to cut its energy intensity by 20 percent from 2005 levels. China is on its way to meeting its own ambitious targets for 2010. A renewable energy law promotes development of hydro-electric and solar power, and the closing of small, inefficient power plants. China's next five-year plan calls for a 16 percent reduction in energy intensity. China's overall emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide are rising fast as its economy grows but more energy efficiency is helping to bring down energy intensity (the amount of power consumed for every dollar of economic output )

China also wants to have 15 percent of its energy to come from non-fossil fuels by 2020, another difficult goal, said Trevor Houser, of the New York economic researcher the Rhodium Group. "Even if they (the Chinese) get halfway there, this will transform fundamentally the global market for clean energy technology," Houser said. "It'll change its price-points, it'll change the relative economics of low-carbon technology versus high-carbon technology, and not just in China but other places."

First Carbon Farming Initiative ‘meth’ on display

The first ‘methodology’ to be released for public comment under the Carbon Farming Initiative covers savannah burning across remote regions of the north of Australia. It was developed by Government in consultation with Indigenous groups and the CSIRO. Gas giant ConocoPhillips already offsets part of its carbon emissions through the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project using this methodology and INPEX is looking at a similar scheme. More than 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been saved under this methodology in the Arnhem Land Plateau. WALFA was recently showcased at the Wildfire 2011 conference in South Africa.
Comments are invited on the proposed savannah burning methodology by Friday 30 June 2011. See:

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Garnaut bestows billions on Carbon Farmers

The 'rivers of cash' that were once predicted to flow through Agriculture from Carbon Farming threaten to break the levy banks if Professor Ross Garnaut's estimates prove accurate. In the period up to 2020 he recommends that 10% of revenue from the Carbon Tax be used to buy offsets from Carbon Farmers. In its first year of operation the scheme could inject more than a billion into farmers' pockets. "A carbon price of $26 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent would generate around $11.5 billion in potential revenue from the value of permits in 2012-13," he writes. The money would flow when "non-Kyoto offset credits could be purchased by the regulatory authority" And that is additional to the revenue generated from sales of offsets to "liable entities [which] could purchase Kyoto offset credits directly, to meet all or part of their liability".
It won't be open slather, though: "A limit to both interactions, especially in the fixed price period is desirable for budget neutrality purposes and to ease anxieties about the undermining of the abatement effort." (Anxieties = fear that offsets merely a pay-to-pollute scheme.)
But there is a burr under the saddle: "Any offset mechanisms in the land sector, including the Carbon Farming Initiative, should be seen as transitional to full inclusion of the sector in a comprehensive carbon pricing scheme." In other words, we get paid to transition to low emissions farming, but eventually we stand on our own two feet in a carbon restricted world.

Garnaut sparks fear of Government secret agenda

Agriculture dodged a bullet when it was left out of the CPRS… but for how long? Now Ross Garnaut is urging the Government to make the sector join the other big emitting industries, reducing or paying for its emissions, by 2015. Why? Because he is an economist and believes Agriculture is a big emitter and should carry its weight. But he also believes it will maximize the impact of the land sector on the challenge of climate change. He thinks we won’t get serious with land-based mitigation unless we are faced with having to change or pay. PM Julia Gillard dismissed the idea of covering Agriculture, saying it is ‘too complex’, ie. hard to measure. But it won’t be forever. SO for now we have a free run at earning offsets without the threat of joining the ranks of the cap and trade buyers.

PS. Professor Garnaut believe 2015 is a good time because it corresponds to the time when New Zealand’s Agriculture faces the full blast of the Emissions Trading System. They being a major competitor is a plus, he thinks. He doesn’t mention that NZ farmers are that nation’s biggest emitters and that they have no Carbon Farming Initiative. Their scientists convinced the Government that the land of the long white cloud has so much carbon in its soils it can’t fit any more in.

Here’s Ross in his own words in Garnaut Report 2011

“ The land sector, especially through biosequestration, has immense technical potential for reduction and absorption of emissions. Realising a small proportion of that potential through providing incentives commensurate with the sector’s mitigation contribution would transform the Australian mitigation effort. It would also greatly expand the economic prospects of rural Australia. Complementary incentives for biodiversity would help to ensure that the potential for carbon and biodiversity efforts to assist each other is realised.

“We are a long way from knowing how much of the technical potential can be realised economically. The linking of the proposed Carbon Farming Initiative with the carbon pricing scheme would open the way to realisation of that potential. This is an essential modification of the proposed Carbon Farming Initiative. Once it was linked to the carbon pricing scheme, the Carbon Farming Initiative would reveal the potential and define the extent to which it is economically relevant; it does this by providing for the emergence of an offset market for land sector abatement.

“In time, as the world shifts towards pricing carbon in farming, the Carbon Farming Initiative can be merged with the broader carbon price and fulfil its full mitigation potential.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said the carbon legislation won't include carbon emissions from farm production, as this is "too complex."

For information about the Carbon Farming Conference & Expo and other Carbon Farming Week activities, click here.

For information about the Carbon Farming & Trading Association, click here.

Garnaut calls for Australia to lead Kyoto reform

Ross Garnaut’s final report calls for the Kyoto rules to be reformed and for Australia to lead the charge. “Australia has a major role to play in developing alternative and economically and environmentally more efficient rules governing incentives for mitigation in the land sector,” says the Report.

“The international rules developed within the Kyoto process overlook many potentially important areas of land sector mitigation. The omissions are especially important in Australia,” it says. “Demonstration of their suitability in Australia can lead to their adoption in other countries....”

For information about the Carbon Farming Conference & Expo and other Carbon Farming Week activities, click here.

For information about the Carbon Farming & Trading Association, click here.