Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A question of confidence

If you can believe yesterday's Australian Financial Review, the Carbon Farming Initiative will be rorted like the Pink Batts scheme; will not deliver genuine reductions in carbon emissions; and will put at risk the brands of any emitters who buy its offsets. It claims that this is because the CFI will not verify the actions of farmers that earn offsets and will allow farmers to claim offsets for actions they would have taken anyway because it would cost too much to prevent them.

These remarks are astonishing. Their source is an article in the Australian Financial Review based on an interview with a member of the the body responsible for ensuring that none of the things mentioned above happen. Rob Fowler is a member of the interim Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee (DOIC). The role of the DOIC is to assess offsets methodologies and work with the people putting them forward to build the safeguards into the system. The checking - physical or otherwise - is dictated by the DOIC. It has the last word.

We applaud Rob's stated aim of not burdening farmers with the expense of a what he calls a 'rort-free' system, but he seems to be saying that the operation of the CFI is impossible because of the cost of measurement and verification. This is an old objection. It overstates the problem and underestimates the impact of innovation on reducing costs. But the Government, while it will be less than impressed with the way he raised the issue, must urgently address Rob's concerns to restore confidence in the CFI.

If those of us spending thousands of hours working for free on methodologies to give farmers access to offsets can't be confident in the integrity of the process, this could deter further submissions and make Rob's prediction self-fulfilling. We are sure he wouldn't want that.

No comments: